Friday, 25 July 2014

Africa’s largest economy cares about the Global Innovation Index Ranking

Before we start (if we’re not already) thinking otherwise, Nigeria (precisely, one of its government ministries) does care about its position on the Global Innovation Index (GII) scoreboard. Strangely enough, it seems as if the government had an idea that the 2014 GII wasn't going to be good news.

According to a report by This Day Live (dated 29 June 2014), the Honourable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology (FMCT), Mrs. Omobola Johnson, remarked: “GII seeks to enable countries benchmark the success or otherwise of their Science Technology and Innovations (STI) and policies, and is an index that we must have in our consciousness as we implement our STI policy.” [This policy -which is ICT focused, and described as a “quantum leap”- was approved since 2012. For a summary and/or history of this policy, see here and here. The initial revised policy, i.e. as of 2011, might be this one here]

Mrs Johnson further added: “In 2010, Nigeria ranked 96 out of 132 countries, in 2011 we ranked 96 out of 125 countries and in 2013, Nigeria ranked 96 out of 142 countries. The increasing denominator of countries ranked could imply that we are making slow and steady progress but unfortunately we still fall into the lower quartiles of the rankings.” [Well, readers would’ve already seen Afro-IP’s list for all African countries since 2007. The pertinent point is that Africa’s current largest economy still finds itself down there]

First, the Afro-IP blog applauds Mrs. Johnson for appreciating, with good grace, the GII (whichever year that may be), and calling for the swift implementation of the STI policy. At least, there is something to focus on, and as the saying goes: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. [Afro Leo also commends the Minister for her gallant efforts and advocacy e.g. here, here, and here] We also note that there is a grand plan to have all government ministries and agencies operating online as soon as possible; this may well spell more good news for IP rights administration in Nigeria.

This Leo thinks, for what it’s worth, that:
Nigeria shouldn’t worry too much about its ranking on the GII scoreboard; there are a lot of these world rankings about - most importantly, the World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR). The GII is indeed a useful reference point for policymakers and it would be worthwhile to actually study all the reports since 2007, in order to draw meaningful lessons and comparisons.

Care should be taken to avoid knee-jerk reactions or irrational decisions, which may give rise to misplaced investments or policies without tangible outputs. So, looking at the 2014 GII, the government could just pick out one or two of the innovation input sub-indices [Afro Leo strongly recommends ‘institution’ and/or ‘human capital and research’] and see if it can improve them. There will be financial costs attached to this, but there must be a strong political will to yield ROI. Is it surprising that the top five African countries in the 2014 GII equally performed much better than Nigeria in the 2014 DBR? [Afro Leo screams: Mauritius ranked above Germany?] There may well be a correlation or lesson to be learnt here.

The government might even decide to go beyond the STI policy by designing and effectively implementing a joined-up Knowledge Economy Master Plan. Ideally, this Plan should be maintained and/or reviewed by subsequent governments. There are no shortcuts to this; it is a long-term game.

In conclusion, since the theme for this year’s GII is ‘human factor in innovation’, this Leo would like to leave you - wishing you a nice weekend - with the words of Amartya Sen on investing in human development: “The rewards of human development go, as we have seen, well beyond the direct enhancement of quality of life, and include also its impact on people’s productive abilities and thus on economic growth on a widely shared basis”. Source: Development as Freedom.


Miscellaneous notes:
(1) Earlier this year, Nigeria’s President inaugurated a National Research and Innovation Council (NRIC) with the commitment to developing a knowledge-based economy. [The UK Government looks like it is supporting this initiative; so is Japan]

(2) This Leo didn't find any direct comment(s) regarding the GII by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), whose website was down at the time of writing. However, FMST’s Minister, Dr. ‎Abdul Bulama, has said some interesting things around the subject-matter here and here

(3) Readers will already be aware that the FMST looks after the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) – an agency with a unique and crucial role to play in innovation.

(4) Serious consideration should be given to the state of Nigeria's IP offices, and IP law reform (plus an IP policy). Here is an interesting piece of research by Dr. Ikechi Mgbeoji, which reviews the patent offices across Africa. You may wish to digest that excellent work together with Afro-IP's A-Z series reviewing the websites of African IP offices (here and here) and IP policies in Africa

Some more references
Nigerian government’s policy values ICT innovation, particularly software development here
FMCT urges Nigerian-based businesses to adopt .ng domain to boost economy here
FMCT also cares about consumer rights here
FMCT signs MOU with Bayelsa State Government here
IBM Innovation Hub in Nigeria is here
Huawei (GII 2014 Knowledge Partner) to invest in Nigeria’s ICT here
Did you know that Nigeria has a National Board for Technology Incubation? See here

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Africa on the MIP map: congratulations, Victor!

Managing Intellectual Property magazine's list of 50 most influential IP movers and shakers for 2014 deservedly lists fellow blogger and tweeter Victor B. Nzomo. Victor's IP Kenya blog and @IPKenya Twitter account -- which this blogger has followed for a long time -- have done a great deal to keep Kenya, and African IP issues, before the eyes of the world. Well done, Victor -- keep up the good work!

Brush up on your IP commercialisation skills, over breakfast

Adams & Adams' new Sandton office is hosting a series of complimentary breakfast talks over the next four months, starting in August. The talks focus on the commercial aspects of IP and the promise is that you will be at your desk by 9, relaxed and enthused! They are open to all, from near and far. This Afro Leo is also presenting and would love for you to pop by and say hi!

You can click on the links or visit this site to register:

    • what are the benefits of offshoring?
    • dealing with Africa's exchange control regulations
    • preparing for exit, a valuation or analysing new opportunities or ... your competitor? This talk considers what IP audits are, why they are important and why they need not cost the earth. 
  • PROTECTING KNOWHOW (4 September)
    • most business IP is locked up in knowhow. This talk discusses restraints of trade, confidentiality and their enforcement.
    • generating sales and royalty streams? This talk analyses how best to leverage your IP
    • to disclose or not to disclose - is that the question?
    • when, what and why to patent
    • Interbrand's erudite Jeremy Sampson explains  the art of IP valuation and why it is critical to businesses
    • the venture capital landscape for tech companies
    • how basic steps in IP management can help secure funding and value on exit
  • ONLINE ADVERTISING (14 November)
    • this talk considers how you can optimise your keyword advertising campaign without infringing trade marks of others, and perhaps by using them!
  • AFRICAN IP HOTSPOTS (27 November)
    • canvassing pitfalls and IP strategies in places like Ethiopia, Angola, Namibia, Nigeria and Kenya
    • the Zulu case study - five different IP business models for traditional communities, explained

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Global Innovation Index: Ranking African countries since 2007...

According to the 2014 Global Innovation Index (GII), co-published by WIPO, Cornell University, and INSEAD, Sub-Saharan Africa is punching above its weight. As you may have already looked at the report, and found what you were after, the essence of this post is to simply show you their rankings since 2007.

What is the GII?
The authors explain: "The GII ranks the innovation performance of 143 countries and economies around the world, based on 81 indicators.The GII explores the role of the individuals and teams behind the innovation process. It sheds light on different aspects of human capital required to achieve innovation, including skilled labor; the intersection of human, financial and technological capital; talent retention; and the mobilization of highly educated people. Understanding the human factor in innovation is essential for the design of national and local policies that help promote economic development." [See pages 7 - 8 for a summary of what 'Innovation Inputs and Outputs' mean and how they arrived at the overall score/ranking. This Leo feels that the 2007 report best describes the GII

What is innovation and how do you measure it?
Well, if we just focus on things like patent (and even trade mark) filings (found under 'knowledge & creativity' outputs), then we're on our own. In fact, the GII considered political stability/terrorism (see 1.1.1 here). Anyway, over at Managing IP, Peter Leung tries to make sense of it all using China and Hong Kong as case studies. 

How have African countries performed since 2007?
To view this, click here

Who are the standout performers or "innovation learners"?
Burkina Faso, Gambia, Rwanda, Malawi, and Mozambique. For a snapshot, click here.

Now you can see how your country (or country of interest) has performed over the past eight years. Similar to the 2007 report, this year's GII tells us that Sub-Saharan Africa significantly improved. The top five African countries for 2014, in order of ranking, are: Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Tunisia, and Morocco. [South Africa was dislodged by Mauritius in 2013; can it regain the top spot in 2015?

The secret to moving up the table might be as simple as considering the relevant and/or most feasible things others above (in one's income or nearest income category) have done or are doing.This Leo eyes, with keen interest, a recent piece by Reuters titled 'inventors struggle to protect patents in Africa'. Perhaps, the next table to put together should be the IP filings ranking.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Southern Africa GI adoption a step closer as Rooibos wins GI protection in Europe

GI protection not a "cup of tea"
Reports that Rooibos, the famed medicinal plant from the Cedarburg region in South Africa, is on the cusp of receiving its long awaited GI protection in Europe is one highlight of the newly "initialled" Economic Partnership Agreement between SADC states and Europe.

Afro-IP learnt from Rooibos Limited's communications officer, Gerda De Wet, that they are "glad that is has come to this now". Rooibos has of course been struggling for over 20 years to secure protection against for the name. "At one point, we could not even export the tea to the US under the name "rooibos", we had to call it "red bush"" said Ms De Wet. That was surely a travesty.

Since the dispute in the States, settled in favour of South African interests, the Rooibos product has fought battles in Europe and specifically France (ironically known for its protection of the Champagne GI). The furore induced fellow blogger Jeremy Phillips to urge African nations to take stock of their national assets under the GI system, in this post here. Rightly so.

Getting GI protection is not that simple especially if there is no dedicated reciprocal protection. This is illustrated by a Mining Weekly report published a few moments ago on the progress of the SADC EPA indicating that the quest for local  GI protection was wrapped up in a complicated EPA negotiation that had been constipated since 2007.

"South Africa’s main concession in the EPA negotiations, meanwhile, related to an agreement to negotiate a protocol on geographic indications (GIs), which are place names used to identify products, such as Champagne, Feta, or Roquefort."

 "Carrim said it was the GIs concession that had eventually unblocked the negotiations... "

Professor Jeanine Marnewick, head of the Oxidative Stress Research Centre at CPUT, who has conducted extensive research into some of the medicinal benefits of Rooibos, explains that clinical trials have shown Rooibos to have considerable preventative qualities for heart disease (see publication here, for example) and that its affect on helping to prevent some cancers, such as skin and liver cancer has been positive.  

WIPO explains that between 1997 and 2007 demand for Rooibos increased 15 fold and be early 2011 Rooibos was experiencing an annual growth rate ot a healthy 6%. This, despite the fact that the Rooibos Council was apparently recently disbanded for lack of funding.

News of the GI may help unite the Council again because it effectively provides free protection in Europe albeit that there is a constant need for enforcement and vigilance which attracts costs. Putting a genie back in a bottle is, after all, no easy task.

The EPA still has to endure a "legal scrubbing process" before parliamentary approval and ratification. This process is expected to take place over the next 18 months according to Mining Weekly.

The journey to GI recognition both locally and elsewhere through GI systems has potential benefit to developing communities but arguably considerable benefit too, to the many more advanced brands and GIs already recognised in Europe. This article commissioned by the British High Commission and research by economist Dinga Fatman, is instructive.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The US-Africa Business Forum (5 August 2014): Will they discuss IP?

China is Africa’s largest trading partner’ is no longer breaking news, as we all very well know. What could be regarded as ‘breaking news’ are efforts by Africa’s traditional trading partners to regain ground lost since 2009.

Considering that this blog covered the 4th EU-Africa Summit, sniffing for some IP, it’s only right to do the same for the United States of America. From the 4th to the 6th of August 2014, Washington DC will stage the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit - the largest event that any U.S. president has ever convened with African heads of state or government. [When it comes to hosting African heads of state, China pretty much leads, with Japan, arguably, the pioneer]

Afro-IP is most concerned with the side dish event, the U.S.-Africa Business Forum ("The Forum") on the 5th of August, which is co-hosted by the Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The thematic areas of focus at the Forum are: Finance and Capital Investment, Infrastructure, Power and Energy, Agriculture, Consumer Goods, and Information Communication Technology. [Afro Leo can suss out that, at least, the last two would bring IP into discussion

Why is Afro Leo suspecting that IP may be discussed? 

(1) Secretary Penny Pritzker said during her visit to Nigeria, last May:

“…But for U.S. businesses to come here, stay here, and help you achieve your full potential, Nigeria needs to take the tough steps that allow businesses to truly thrive. Our companies want to do business in countries that follow the rule of law, maintain ethical standards, abide by workplace safety, encourage workforce training, and protect intellectual property. These are the conditions that will increase trust and confidence among international and local business leaders and encourage further investment.”

(2) In another press release, about the Forum, Secretary Pritzker also said: “The opportunities for the United States and Africa to work together to achieve mutual prosperity for our countries and our people are growing. Africa is home to seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, the middle class across the continent is expanding, and there is great potential for U.S. firms to sell their goods and services, and leverage their expertise, to help African countries meet their development goals…”

(3) Lastly, isn't this a good opportunity for the Department of Commerce to do its bit in furtherance of Goal III (for a summary, see pages 33 – 35) of the USPTO’s Strategic Plan 2014 – 2018?

At last! The U.S. has decided to do something prominent to demonstrate that it really values its economic relationship with the African continent. In doing so, the world’s No. 1 economy doesn't have to shy away from mentioning or discussing IP because China, yes China, equally recognises the impact of substandard and counterfeit goods, and would also like African countries to protect IP, or, at least, do well with it (e.g. see paragraph 4.4.3 here or here and here). [Afro Leo reminds me that China led the pack in this year’s patent filing statistics, and says that, very soon, the Asian giant may begin to strongly advocate IP protection and enforcement]

It is indeed promising to see countries, with manufactured goods/services to sell or natural resources to purchase, going on the charm offensive to win over the hearts and minds of African governments. These countries include Brazil (also here), India (also here), and the European Union. Their relationships will always attract criticisms – China currently taking the heat e.g. here and here – but it’s the responsibility of the African governments to bargain well.

To the African heads of state and business leaders: don't be surprised if you hear a thing or two about IP.

   How should African countries deal with ALL COUNTRIES Brazil, China, and India?
                                             OECD video (with a disclaimer)

South Africa confident that it can build a ‘brand’ in China here
Sino-Africa Relations at Government level can be found here
China says that it’s speaking up for Africa at the UN (on post-2015 MDG agenda) here
What the U.S. doesn't understand in the Sino-Africa Relations is here

Friday, 18 July 2014

The act of persuasion: an IP perspective

Grab a copy here
Before signing off for the weekend, this Leo would like to draw your attention, in case you’ve not already seen it, to this interesting blogpost titled: The Top 14 TED Talks for Lawyers and Litigators 2014. [Afro Leo loves eye-catching titles beginning with ‘The Top 10’, ‘5 Top’ and so on, but he’s unsure if it’ll work for this blog

The author, Ken Lopez, describes the videos as relevant to lawyers, particularly those in litigation practice. Mr Lopez writes: “…Even though lawyers engage in persuasion all the time, and it is at the core of the work we do, persuasion is something most are street-smart about, not book-smart. In other words, most people's knowledge of how to persuade tends to come naturally or is attained by observing how other talented persuaders behave…” [Indeed, lawyers do this subconsciously. Mediators do it as well - not that they would like to be forthright about it]

No need to watch all 14; a couple will be enough to drive home the message. This Leo only watched the first one, embedded below, and immediately found it relevant, from several angles including IP. [Afro Leo says that government and policymakers, in particular, will learn a lot from this video] As you'll discover, Steve Martin used case studies on crime prevention and the environment to demonstrate how we can influence behaviour change [Sounds like what advertisers do]. One of these was that a signage at the Petrified Forest, which warned visitors against stealing from the park, resulted in an increase in theft incidents in contrast to when it was replaced with a more positive message urging visitors to recognise the value of the park to others. As Mr Martin concluded, a well-intentioned crime prevention strategy inadvertently promoted the crime. Can IP stakeholders, including government and policymakers, learn from this? [The guess is that some are already using this communication strategy]

Essentially, Mr Martin’s suggestion is that if we want others (be it a client, government, or other persons) to do what we want them to do, we should try and tell them about what others, ‘most similar to them’, are doing or have done. He tells us that the reason why this can be effective is that "these people" will most likely follow others "most similar to them". So, for this Leo, simple IP-related examples could be: (a) subtly advising an e-commerce client that its competitor has recently instructed a law firm to look after its online brand image and corporate reputation - a service you also have on offer; or (b) lobbying an African government to change its IP legislation or policy, citing that a neighbouring country (or another in the region) has already done so with positive results. [The latter example is relevant to this Leo as he often refers to other countries (from least-developed to developed) in most of his blogposts]

The key lesson for this Leo is this: attempt to use the subject’s nearest neighbour to persuade the subject. Now that's a difficult one to follow. [Afro Leo also reminds me that “no one size fits all”

Have a nice weekend. :-)

Video 1: TEDxWarwick Speech by Steve Martin

Video 2: Secrets From The Science of Persuasion

Update (19/07/2014): This Leo has just spotted video 2, which is even more instructive. Further food for thought!
International IP Enforcement Summit, discusses the need to ‘change the narrative’ here
The Science and Technology Committee (UK House of Lords) Report on Behaviour Change is here
European Patent Office inspiring innovative people with awards here, and making patents look normal with an advert on CNN here