Friday, 23 March 2018

Caroline Ncube

IP, PAIPO and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement

The African Union's foray into Intellectual Property regulation has been on two fronts. First, through the establishment of the Pan-African IP Organisation (PAIPO) and second, by including IP in the negotiations for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). There has been movement on both fronts recently. 

On 29 January 2018, Comoros signed the PAIPO Statute becoming the third signatory after Ghana and Sierra Leone who signed in 2017 and 2016, respectively. See the list of signatories and background information on PAIPO here, here and here. It remains to be seen if any other signatures will follow and whether the requisite number of ratifications (15) to bring the statute into force will follow.

The media has been awash with the momentous signature of the Agreement on the AfCFTA at the 10th Extraordinary Summit  of the Assembly of the African Union in Kigali, Rwanda on 21 March 2018.  African Union member states also had the opportunity to sign the Kigali Declaration on the establishment of the AfCFTA and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right to Residence and Right to Establishment. AfCTA legal texts and policy documents are available for download from TRALAC's website here (free registration required prior to access).

The AU Commission reported that 44 states signed the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA, 43 signed the Kigali Declaration and 27 signed the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right to Residence and Right to Establishment. The AU has compiled this list of countries and what they signed.

Intellectual property rights will be included in phase two of the AfCFTA negotiations. An overview of the policy concerns that ought to be considered in these negotiations is provided in chapter 4 of Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA) VII: Innovation, Competitiveness and Regional Integration (2016).  The chapter concludes: "Both initiatives should use mechanisms open to them to safeguard TRIPS flexibilities to address development needs. A Continental Free Trade Area agreement on intellectual property could be the basis for a common approach to negotiating intellectual property trade and investment agreements with external partners. A strategic approach to intellectual property policy at continental level can also provide a basis for pooling resources among African countries and regional economic communities to build the heavy capacities required for ensuring intellectual property protection."

The discussion of these developments was continued in chapter 10 of Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (ARIA) VII: Bringing the Continental Free Trade Area about (2017), which I contributed to. This chapter canvasses some of the possible aspects that ought to be covered in the IP negotiations and draws from this working paper.  It will be interesting to see when the second stage negotiations actually take off and which aspects they will include. Watch this space for updates. 

Caroline Ncube

Caroline Ncube

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