Monday, 31 March 2014

EU-Africa Summit 2014: IP is also relevant

African Union
European Union
One would be forgiven to think that the G87 summit is the hottest annual ticket in town; well, this Leo thinks that the EU-Africa summit 2014 could give them a run for their money. The fourth EU-Africa summit is scheduled to take place in Brussels, Belgium, from 2nd to 3rd April 2014. The theme is: "Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace." 

The programme states that it will  "illustrate how EU-Africa relations have evolved over the past years, will highlight the results achieved by the Continental Partnership and will frame cooperation for the years to come." But, will someone throw a spanner in the works? Maybe. According to news report, the African Union (or some might say, Zimbabwe) is threatening to boycott the summit because of the existing European travel ban on Zimbabwe's first lady. This apolitical Leo will leave this complicated matter at that; to learn more, click here.

Any IP-related discussions?
Yes, intellectual property is, and has always been, part of discussions (e.g. see here and here) between the EU and Africa in various capacities. In fact, paragraph 40 of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy document enshrines IP as one of the areas they would work on. "EU-Africa or Africa-EU, which way folk?" says Afro Leo. Supposing the Heads of State do not actually discuss IP at the summit, would someone else take up this responsibility? Yes, at events like these, there is always time and space for private sector business leaders to chat amongst themselves on various issues affecting commerce. Happening today and tomorrow is the 5th EU-Africa Business Forum (AEBF). The AEBF includes a roundtable discussion on health and pharmaceuticals which will inevitably touch on the access to medicines and patent debate.

The speakers/participants are:
Chair: Greg Perry, Executive Director Medicines Patent Pool 
Co-Chair:  Dr. François Bompart, Vice-President of European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) 
Co-Chair: Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, President of Neimeth International Pharmaceutical Plc, Nigeria
Co-Chair: Nick Haggar, President of European Generic Medicines Association EGA 

The EU's interest in Africa is not new; but, resentment (e.g. see Jacob Zuma's views on Europe etc) of the history between the 2 continents is well and truly alive. Considering China's activities across Africa and the prominence of the BRICS bloc, the EU wishes not to be left behind in 'Africa rising'. This is why the EU is keen to stress, in its various documents on this summit, that both continents are attending as "equal partners". Furthermore, its PR campaign on this project, 2 Unions, 1 Vision, also attempts to strike a bond. But, would it sell?

Says Afro Leo, "we hope to see an end to this kerfuffle within and between the AU. It is one thing clamoring to attend a high-level delegation summit and another to make the best use of such platforms to advance the interests of one's nation or continent." 

For your delectation:
EU-Africa summit background notes are here and here
The EU whittles down Zimbabwe sanctions here 
Muammar Al Gaddafi's speech at the 2010 EU-Africa summit is here (also here)
China's investment in Africa criticised by some here

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