“Intellectual property is development!” It’s a refrain heard often around the continent. And one that is likely to only increase in ubiquitousness as the rest of the world is recognizing Africa’s economic potential; see Kingsley’s post on the African Creative Industries Investment Summit. Today, that sentiment was hoisted up by Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of Tanzania, Toshihiro Kose of the Japan Patent Office and Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO at a conference in Dar es Salaam.
The African Conference on the Strategic Importance of Intellectual Property Policies to Foster Innovation, Value Creation and Competiveness – boy, that’s a mouthful that surely needs some sort of clever acronym – is a cosponsored program brought to Africa by WIPO and Japan’s special funds-in-trust for Africa program. Japan has a number of funds-in-trust programs in conjunction with various inter-governmental organizations. The funds-in-trust for Africa program was established 5 years ago to support activities that strengthen frameworks for IP protection. (More on Japan’s Funds-in-Trust for Africa here.)
Today’s program included opening remarks by President Kikwete, available in full here, Mr. Gurry, Mr. Kose and several others. The program then continued to look specifically at Development Challenges and the role of IP law in innovation. The afternoon focused on IP education. The second day program will focus on turning those innovations and laws into marketable opportunities. The program lists a delightful array of speakers, including many from across Africa, representatives evident of South-South collaboration, as well as speakers from the sponsors, WIPO and Japan. (PDF of full program here.)
While the President’s opening remarks are encouraging of increasing collaboration and IP protections, he seems to have confused several areas of the field, combining industrial design, bio-patents, geographical indicators and trademarks in a single breath. Sadly, this Little Leo sees in this speech more regurgitation of WIPO- and Western-pushed ideas than a real understanding of the effects of intellectual property law.
But there is a bright spot. The President announced the formation of a new Masters program in IP law at the University of Dar es Salaam, being organized in conjunction with ARIPO and the Tanzanian agency in charge of administering the country’s industrial property laws (Business Registrations and Licensing Agency or BRELA). Little Leo hopes that education about IP, especially at the masters level, will include many different perspectives.
The conference continues tomorrow. If any Afro-IP readers have been able to attend and would like to share summaries, they would be most welcome.
Photo: Jakaya Kikwete – Partnerships for Development – World Economic Forum on Africa 2011, CC-BY-SA Copyright World Economic Forum and Matthew Jordaan, cropped version available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jakaya_Kikwete.jpg and full version available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum/5690210115/in/photostream/