Last evening was the end of what we hope to be the inaugural Africa IP Forum.
Attendance was expected to be around 500 with as many signing up, including observers from Europe, the US and elsewhere Although just over 50% actually attended during the course of the two days, the sessions were mostly full and the discussions engaging, thought provoking, at times heated and, in some cases, quite disturbing.
The overriding emotion was one of frustration. From the outset, despite the agenda focusing very much on developmental issues, there was picketing and security had to be called. The Forum was not tense but we heard very frustrated voices from some who have tried to invoke change for many years.
Afro-IP's coverage of the event will take place through volunteers who have kindly agreed or offered to do guest posts with their thoughts and observations. David Cochrane (Spoor & Fisher) opens this derivative work, so to speak, and his notes are published in the next post, to be followed by others.
For this Afro Leo, he left feeling somewhat bemused. Africans tend to be misunderstood and underestimated (sometimes by themselves) in terms of their perception and understanding of IP's affect on daily lives in developing countries. The value of IP also tends to be misunderstood and underestimated in terms of what it can do to help Africa and Africans, if properly utilised. There is an inherent danger of simply playing victim to achieve exceptions and limitations to IP laws or creating new ones for developmental reasons because we Africans are also proprietary and even opportunistic by nature. Yet, undoubtedly there are valid reasons why the laws need to be customised to achieve developmental objectives and sometimes the failure of IP to work to our advantage is because we tend to be disorganised and slow to implement good policies and objectives that come out of Forums such as this. Hopefully, this may now start to change.
For next time, Afro Leo would like to see better communication about the Forum (two weeks notice is not sufficient), more transparency about attendees (invoking proprietary rights over the attendee list seemed quite ironic), some sensitivity to IP by the organisers (distributing local mints packaged in the Italian flag and product "made in China" bearing DTI branding did not seem appropriate) and seeking balanced input and discussion from local industry would have been welcome. But overall, he is just chuffed it happened at all and was impressed with the turnout.
Those who want to share their views are encouraged to do so, either through the comments section or by submitting a post here. What did you think?