Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Great Race for Africa: who will win?

Goodness, how quickly everyone seems to be focusing on Africa now that the continent's IP community is starting to take steps to address its own intellectual property issues.  Attempts to launch a Pan-African Forum and to establish a Pan African Intellectual Property Organisation (PAIPO) have received a good deal less support than they deserve, on grounds on which this blogpost will not elaborate, as well as some well-informed constructive criticism.  However, some major non-African bodies have coincidentally turned an almost simultaneous focus on to the continent.

Yesterday I read the of the following initiative from the International Trademark Association:
INTA Bulletin October 15, 2012  Vol. 67  No. 18  
INTA Launches “Africa Rising” Initiative 

Through its Trademark Office Practices Committee’s OAPI/ARIPO Subcommittee, INTA is launching a new initiative, “Africa Rising,” to highlight the value of trademarks and their protection in Africa, as well as the Association’s activities that focus on this increasingly important arena in global commerce.

INTA’s efforts over the years to develop its presence in Africa have focused on building strong relationships with the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), which is based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), which is headquartered in Harare, Zimbabwe. These two regional systems, which together comprise 34 African jurisdictions, were established to promote cooperation and coordination among African states in harmonizing their intellectual property laws, practices and procedures.

In the mid-1990s, INTA established the OAPI/ARIPO Subcommittee to assist these regional systems in their efforts to promote economic development through improving trademark registration and protection. For almost two decades the Association has been instrumental in the effort to achieve this goal, providing advice, recommendations and assistance to OAPI and ARIPO in amending their treaties and procedures and encouraging other African countries to join these regional systems. Reflecting the value of INTA’s contribution, both OAPI and ARIPO have joined INTA, participate in the Subcommittee’s work and have entered into cooperative agreements with the Association.

Given its sole focus on Africa, the OAPI/ARIPO Subcommittee is taking the lead in raising the awareness of INTA members about African trademark systems, not only at the regional level but at the national level as well. The Subcommittee also will reach out to other parts of INTA active in policy development (anticounterfeiting/legislation/nontraditional and well-known marks), education and publishing in order to help coordinate INTA activities in Africa.

Africa Rising is an exciting opportunity for INTA members to learn more about new opportunities as Africa’s importance to the world economy increases, and to become engaged in INTA’s activities on the continent....
Only last year the International Trademark Association could find no room for a session on Africa in its Annual Meeting. It's good to see that the continent is coming in from the cold.

Meanwhile, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)  has suddenly thrown its hat into the ring with its own initiative.  I've just received this:
16 October 2012: for Immediate Release   
Initiative Unveiled to Increase ICANN’s Presence and Participation across Africa Plan Receives Enthusiastic Support of CEO and Board Chair  
Toronto, Canada… 
Leaders of Africa’s Internet community have unveiled a comprehensive plan designed to dramatically increase African involvement in ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model. 
The initiative was presented to ICANN during the organization’s 45th public meeting in Toronto, Canada by the Africa Strategy Working Group (ASWG). It was formed after ICANN’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, Fadi Chehadé encouraged a stronger voice from the African continent in ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model.“When we met three months ago at the ICANN meeting in Prague, I felt a sense of frustration at our inability to come together and move the Africa agenda forward,” said Chehadé. “It’s incredible what this working group has achieved in such a short period of time by engaging with many concerned groups and individuals through the multi-stakeholder process.”“We employed a bottom-up, open and public process in developing this initiative,” said Nii Quaynor of Ghana, a well-respected Internet leader in Africa and Chair of the ASWG. “We think this plan will lead to dramatically increased African participation in ICANN and greater presence for the organization on the African continent.”  The plan was written with the input and broad support of ICANN’s African community, Africa's Regional Registry for Internet Number Resources (AFRINIC) and other influential African organizations involved in the Internet ecosystem.“We are taking a new approach to Africa,” said Tarek Kamel, a Senior Advisor to the ICANN President. “This plan is based on capacity building, business development, specifically developing the Domain Name System (DNS) business in Africa and insuring inclusion.”The three year initiative, entitled ICANN's New Approach to Africa, lays out clear goals and milestones and an action plan for the first 12 months.  It is a collaborative effort by AFRINIC, Africa's Regional Registry for Internet Number Resources and the ICANN community.  The initiative will now be posted for public comment. Currently, African internet users represent only 6 per cent of Internet users worldwide. ...              
The apparent distance between ICANN's activities, particularly its venture into gTLDs, and any sort of African interest has been noted in the past. Now, suddenly, Africa is the flavour of the month. Which organisations will be next, this blogger wonders.  Will we have "AIPPI for Africa", LES promoting "Africa Licenses" and so on? Afro Leo waits expectantly for the next initiatives ...

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