Author:Mwiti, Susan
Position:African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation

Intellectual Property. A thorough understanding of Intellectual Property rights is essential for the ongoing industrialisation of Africa but this area is poorly served by the current graduate curriculum on the continent. Susan Mwiti (inset) describes how groundbreaking work by the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) is reversing this trend.

Africa's enduring capacity deficits can be blamed on the mismatch of training across the continent, where countries put more emphasis on training people in the humanities and do not balance it with studies that offer technical skills.

Today, 80% of African students study humanities. Broken down, the statistics shows that 95% of African students study Social Science, Business, and Law, while only 4% study Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction. Worse still, only 2% study Agriculture, even though agriculture contributes 32% of the continent's GDP.

Therefore, practical interventions that are adapted to capacity imperatives and Africa's plans for structural transformation are key to socio-economic growth.

Critically, one area that still has insignificant capacity is Intellectual Property (IP) rights. In fact, some African countries to date have no IP offices at all.

Africa has a great tradition of innovation and creativity and has extraordinary creative resources, but has often struggled to realise its full economic potential because it lacks an understanding of the importance of IP rights and functional IP systems.

In today's knowledge economy, innovation, creativity and IP hold far-reaching promise for spurring economic growth, trade and employment. Thankfully, although African economies still face many competing and compelling policy priorities, innovation and IP are rising on the policy agenda. What is lacking is implementation.

Negligible number of IP professionals

In the last decade, African countries have become more aware of the global IP law system and have in turn made efforts to establish IP systems through which they seek to add value to their innovative and creative resources. Yet, despite the growth of IP in Africa, there are still a negligible number of IP professionals on the continent to make a significant change. This is why, since 2008, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has been creating a critical mass of IP experts on the continent, in partnership with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Africa University...

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