Monday 21 July 2014


The US-Africa Business Forum (5 August 2014): Will they discuss IP?

China is Africa’s largest trading partner’ is no longer breaking news, as we all very well know. What could be regarded as ‘breaking news’ are efforts by Africa’s traditional trading partners to regain ground lost since 2009.

Considering that this blog covered the 4th EU-Africa Summit, sniffing for some IP, it’s only right to do the same for the United States of America. From the 4th to the 6th of August 2014, Washington DC will stage the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit - the largest event that any U.S. president has ever convened with African heads of state or government. [When it comes to hosting African heads of state, China pretty much leads, with Japan, arguably, the pioneer]

Afro-IP is most concerned with the side dish event, the U.S.-Africa Business Forum ("The Forum") on the 5th of August, which is co-hosted by the Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The thematic areas of focus at the Forum are: Finance and Capital Investment, Infrastructure, Power and Energy, Agriculture, Consumer Goods, and Information Communication Technology. [Afro Leo can suss out that, at least, the last two would bring IP into discussion

Why is Afro Leo suspecting that IP may be discussed? 

(1) Secretary Penny Pritzker said during her visit to Nigeria, last May:

“…But for U.S. businesses to come here, stay here, and help you achieve your full potential, Nigeria needs to take the tough steps that allow businesses to truly thrive. Our companies want to do business in countries that follow the rule of law, maintain ethical standards, abide by workplace safety, encourage workforce training, and protect intellectual property. These are the conditions that will increase trust and confidence among international and local business leaders and encourage further investment.”

(2) In another press release, about the Forum, Secretary Pritzker also said: “The opportunities for the United States and Africa to work together to achieve mutual prosperity for our countries and our people are growing. Africa is home to seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, the middle class across the continent is expanding, and there is great potential for U.S. firms to sell their goods and services, and leverage their expertise, to help African countries meet their development goals…”

(3) Lastly, isn't this a good opportunity for the Department of Commerce to do its bit in furtherance of Goal III (for a summary, see pages 33 – 35) of the USPTO’s Strategic Plan 2014 – 2018?

At last! The U.S. has decided to do something prominent to demonstrate that it really values its economic relationship with the African continent. In doing so, the world’s No. 1 economy doesn't have to shy away from mentioning or discussing IP because China, yes China, equally recognises the impact of substandard and counterfeit goods, and would also like African countries to protect IP, or, at least, do well with it (e.g. see paragraph 4.4.3 here or here and here). [Afro Leo reminds me that China led the pack in this year’s patent filing statistics, and says that, very soon, the Asian giant may begin to strongly advocate IP protection and enforcement]

It is indeed promising to see countries, with manufactured goods/services to sell or natural resources to purchase, going on the charm offensive to win over the hearts and minds of African governments. These countries include Brazil (also here), India (also here), and the European Union. Their relationships will always attract criticisms – China currently taking the heat e.g. here and here – but it’s the responsibility of the African governments to bargain well.

To the African heads of state and business leaders: don't be surprised if you hear a thing or two about IP.

   How should African countries deal with ALL COUNTRIES Brazil, China, and India?
                                             OECD video (with a disclaimer)

South Africa confident that it can build a ‘brand’ in China here
Sino-Africa Relations at Government level can be found here
China says that it’s speaking up for Africa at the UN (on post-2015 MDG agenda) here
What the U.S. doesn't understand in the Sino-Africa Relations is here



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