Monday, 18 March 2013

MDGs and IP featuring UNDESA, WIPO, ECOSOC and...... African Ministers

Afro-IP has just come across a joint post-event press release by UNDESA and WIPO on a recent but important series of meetings (see Aurelia's post here) in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania which emphasised on the role of innovation, science and technology in the development of African countries and the support needed to attain the MDGs. (Afro Leo notes that meetings/discussions on intellectual property (IP) titled, for example, 'Regional Preparatory Meeting for Africa', tend to raise eyebrows in some quarters). 


WIPO HomeSo, the main, and perhaps last, meeting (on the 14th of March) is said to have convened "over twenty African ministers" and, together with others, were held in preparation for the Annual Ministerial Review of the UN Economic and Social Council to take place in July 2013. (Participating Ministers from over twenty African countries; over twenty participating Ministers from a handful of African countries; or even better, Ministers who just came to listen to what "others" have to say? Afro Leo is puzzled). Are you? 

WIPO Director General and United Republic of Tanzania’s President
open the Conference on Innovation and IP in Dar es Salaam 
(Photo: Zainul A. Mzige).
In search for Ministers in the programme document for 14th March meeting, this Leo could only find government representatives (Ministers as it were) from the following countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Egypt. (Afro Leo counts four (4) Ministers and asks if they all have IP in their portfolios unlike their counterpart in the UK  in charge of IP as highlighted below). 

Digging deeper in search of more Ministerial touch, the programme document (for meetings held on 12th and 13th March) can only reveal international/regional organisations (including AMCOST, the supranational entity involved in the stricken PAIPO, ARIPO and OAPI) and government representatives from the following African countries: Tanzania (sorry, represented by the President) and...........


Anyway, this Leo must say that he is quite impressed with the opening statement made by H.E. Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania - part of which (soundbite) was picked out by the joint press release mentioned above. This Leo cannot remember David Cameron speaking about IP in this manner; no wonder the IP community in the UK (see herehere and here) feel that they are yet to see a "real" and dedicated IP Minister to champion the IP cause (Perhaps, an EU price to pay). In that case, African countries may not be doing that bad after all. [Afro Leo is wondering whether there is now any need or benefit for African countries to create a Ministerial position for IP and innovation when: (a) they are still net importers of IP;  (b) some, if not most, still have obsolete IP laws in desperate need for reform; and (c) based on what we have seen, they might as well have Presidents somewhat versed in IP - at least it is better than what is currently seen in the UK

Readers should note that Tanzania did score well, last year, in the Afro-IP's marathon tour across the African continent. Afro Leo says, well done to the Tanzanian President for ensuring that his country's IP office has an online presence in the age of innovation, science and technology.

The African continent is going through an exciting economic transformation and this Leo is pleased to see  WIPO (as usual) doing what it can to ensure that an adequate IP regime is not left out in the cold in this phenomenon. However, a great majority would agree that one would like to see more action than words on the basic needs of the national IP offices and agencies across Africa (including technical assistance and public sensitisation programmes on IP) and wider involvement of stakeholders (including all African countries and their suitable representatives and/or IP communities to ensure that development needs are tailored). Further, is it not also the case that the continent require more private investment into other sectors and not just in natural resources?

Well, let us just agree that all African Ministers appreciate the importance of science, technology and innovation (plus IP) in the development of their respective countries.
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For the background research paper presented at this meeting, see here
Japan's support for IP across Africa, see here, here, and here,
Again, see Aurelia's comments on these meetings here
For IP Tzar or Czar in the United States, see here

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