Well-Designed IP Systems Can Benefit Africa, Leaders Say; WIPO Director Urges Action04/11/2015 by Babacar Dione for Intellectual Property Watch and Sadibou Marone for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate.DAKAR, Senegal — As Africa is emerging to become a centre of economic growth, strong and well-developed national intellectual property systems can help the continent unlock its citizens’ creativity and innovation and further boost economic growth, World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis Gurry said today (3 November) in Dakar, the Senegalese capital where an African Ministerial Conference on intellectual property kicked off. Gurry was joined by top officials from a number of African nations. The 2015 African Ministerial Conference on Intellectual Property for Emerging Africa is taking place in Dakar from 3-5 November. WIPO issued a press release from the first day.The event, which gathers around 50 ministers from Africa, was opened by Mauritius President Gurib-Fakim who strongly supported the idea of well-designed IP systems that can benefit national economies in Africa, a continent which is set to become “the second-fastest growing market.”The event is an indication of an emerging cooperation between the African Union and WIPO, and an “opportunity to investigate the conjunctions of two great trends: the shift of economy towards capital, and the emergence of Africa as a centre of growth,” Gurry told participants.He highlighted the fact that “intellectual property is a means of capturing a competitive advantage that is conferred by innovation and also a means of rewarding investment, human and financial resources, in the generation of new knowledge and innovation.”Senegal Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah DionneSenegalese Prime Minister Mohamed Boun Abdallah Dionne, who was speaking on behalf of the country’s President, said his country is more than happy to host the event.“The patenting of inventions is a crucial means to disseminate new knowledge it protects. By choosing Intellectual Property for an Emerging Africa as a theme for this ministerial conference, organizers are comforting us in our fundamental options: in the new society of knowledge and know how, Africa is more than aware of benefits to get from intellectual property,” Dionne told participants.A country like Senegal claims that research and IP issues are growing. Its Industry and Mines Minister told reporters at a press conference that around 30 patents were received between 2013 and 2014, which “shows the dynamism of local inventors,” Aly Ngouille Ndiaye said.The African Union and the United Nations have committed to work to support the process as “Africa is literally absent in international forums on IP,” said AU representative at the conference, Martial De Paul Ipounga.Africa will be a great economic market in a near future and Japan will participate in that by supporting IP systems, said Takashi Kitahara, Ambassador of Japan to Senegal.According to organisers, the conference aims to highlight the relevance of IP in promoting innovation and scientific and technological transformation of African economies. It will also show how IP can contribute to the realization of the priorities identified in the Common African Position (CAP) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. And it will provide an arena for discussion on the role of IP for innovation and creativity in the continent. The meeting ends on 5 November.Mauritius President: Africa’s Partners Must Support Innovation in the ContinentAmeenah Gurib-Fakim, the President of the Republic of Mauritius, called on Africa’s partners to support innovation in the continent.Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim“Partners can help build capacity in the continent. The gains are possible when governments work with partners to develop innovation and intellectual property,” she said. The president spoke on the high-level panel at the conference.The panel had the theme, “Africa in the context of a knowledge-based economy, challenges and perspectives.” It brought together several experts, civil society members, representatives of governments and donors.Gurib-Fakim praised the continent’s progress to establish positive growth. “The continent is still recognised for its progress,” she said. “Africa is one of the areas that are quickly developing. With the development of internet and the new technologies Africa is growing. Its sons are making progress in the field of innovation.”But, she said in prepared remarks, “the big question now is: How do we address Intellectual Property so that we become real game changers for the African Continent, especially as the African economy continues to diversify further?”“It is a known fact that Africa has a weak, not to say underwhelming record on creating and protecting IP,” said the president. “According to WIPO, ‘no African nation was among the top 20 countries for patent applications in 2013.’ This is certainly a bleak picture.”“[I]n this globally fiercely competitive international economic landscape, the creation and management including protection of knowledge will be central to building and spearheading wealth creation and integration in the global economy, she said.Gurib-Fakim pointed to a “paradox,” which is that “Africa spends on average some US $ 2.2 billion in IP payments but revenues include a paltry US $ 266 million. On the other hand, IP proceeds for the developed countries amounted to approximately US $ 297 billion in 2013.”The president said the continent can achieve its ambitions based on a “strong and credible institutions.” According to her, this will address the challenges in fighting against climate change and unemployment.“The continent needs to generate 10 million jobs. It must invest in industries. The continent must also adapt to climate change. Africa must be a continent free from diseases such as AIDS. Women’s access to healthcare should be granted,” she said.WIPO Director General Calls For Africa To Take ActionWIPO Director General Francis Gurry said at the opening that Africa must take action to develop innovation in order to increase its growth.“Africa has urgent priorities. Innovation is the basis for increased productivity. We must capitalize the benefits of innovation,” Gurry said at the high-level panel. More than 100 experts, governments, academics and inventors took part in the high-level panel, according to sources.For the WIPO director, the African continent has the assets to take action. “The regulatory framework in Africa is not bad. We must take action. There are many models of efforts implemented in the field of innovation and intellectual property in Africa,” he said. “Innovation is a state of mind. We must practice it. We must also strengthen the capacity of African institutions.”Martial De Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology at the African Union Commission, said the actions that need to be started must address the needs of the continent in terms of innovation.“Innovation is a response to a need,” he said. “We must identify the bridges over which innovations are desired, because an innovation must be useful. It takes us to lead people to create.”Ikounga urged the involvement of the university community. “Universities must be involved. They should in collaboration with the states identify the needs and request the response from inventors and youths. This could further support the growth of the continent,” he said.Financing is essential to take action, according to several participants to the panel. Donors felt that the crucial factor is to see “how to promote access to financing,” according to some participants.“There is huge capacity to drive growth by addressing the issue of access to finance,” said Oluwatoyin Sanni, CEO of United Capital in Nigeria. “It is difficult to finance, because there is not enough protection. We must be part of the solution. We must therefore create risk management structures to ensure the funding.” Image Credits: WIPO, WIPO, WIPOShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedBabacar Dione may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sadibou Marone may be reached at email@example.com."Well-Designed IP Systems Can Benefit Africa, Leaders Say; WIPO Director Urges Action" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.