Friday, 4 February 2011

The OAPI Caravan

"Raising IP Awareness in West Africa" is one of the articles just published here in the February 2011 issue of WIPO Magazine. It features an interview with Paulin Edou Edou, Director General of the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), who explains how OAPI is reaching out to members of the public in each of its 16 member states to raise awareness about the economic, social and cultural benefits of effective intellectual property protection.

The OAPI Caravan initiative is described -- and it sound quite imaginative -- as a way of taking the case for IP to the people.
"The OAPI Caravan Initiative is proving to be an effective means of introducing IP to the general public. For any high-profile event in one of our member states, the OAPI Caravan sets up at a local university or marketplace to attract, and engage with, a wide range of people. So far, we have used the Caravan at events in Dakar (Senegal), Yaoundé (Cameroon), Bissau (Guinea-Bissau) and Bamako (Mali), and it has been met with great enthusiasm by young people, students and businesspersons alike. The Caravan enables us to reach a broad public including, most importantly, those who might not have anyone else to speak to about IP. For example, there’s a general perception that if a product is cheaper it’s better, regardless of whether it is genuine or counterfeit. By discussing with the public, we can explain the risks and threats associated with purchasing counterfeit goods. Once they understand this, they are very supportive of our efforts to crack down on such illegal trade.
The OAPI Caravan distributes T-shirts, runs quizzes, and engages with passersby to discuss IP, explain what it is all about and why it is of relevance to them. It’s an innovative approach and, while we will only see the concrete benefits in the coming years, it is proving a cost-effective way of raising public awareness about IP.
We still have much to do, but I hope that over the next five years, we will have succeeded in transforming the IP landscape of the OAPI region. Building broad-based awareness of IP is a key factor in achieving this goal.The OAPI Caravan Initiative is proving to be an effective means of introducing IP to the general public. For any high-profile event in one of our member states, the OAPI Caravan sets up at a local university or marketplace to attract, and engage with, a wide range of people. So far, we have used the Caravan at events in Dakar (Senegal), Yaoundé (Cameroon), Bissau (Guinea-Bissau) and Bamako (Mali), and it has been met with great enthusiasm by young people, students and businesspersons alike. The Caravan enables us to reach a broad public including, most importantly, those who might not have anyone else to speak to about IP. For example, there’s a general perception that if a product is cheaper it’s better, regardless of whether it is genuine or counterfeit. By discussing with the public, we can explain the risks and threats associated with purchasing counterfeit goods. Once they understand this, they are very supportive of our efforts to crack down on such illegal trade".
Afro Leo likes this idea, but he thinks you'd need an entire Continent full of caravans if any sort of meaningful impact is going to be made on one of the most infringement-friendly consumer zones that any vendor of fake products could ever hope to find -- and he wonders whether there is the possibility of any metric to gauge the effectiveness of the OAPI Caravan, or at least some form of follow-up, to see whether it has made an enduring mark or is just another set of footprints in the shifting desert sands.

1 comment:

Barry Eagar said...

Great idea and you're right about the continent full of caravans. That said, perhaps the caravanners would do better to promote the benefits of protecting IP rather than using negative language such as "risks and threats". After all, Africa is the true home of music. It is also full of wonderful symbols and traditions. These things should all be protected for the benefit of Africans.