World Intellectual Property Organization

African Ministers Emphasize Importance of Science, Technology and Innovation for Development

Geneva/Dar es Salaam, March 14, 2013
PR/2013/731

Joint Press release by UNDESA and WIPO

A meeting bringing together over twenty African ministers, the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the heads of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and WIPO, together with senior representatives of the private sector and civil society organizations has underlined the importance of science, technology and innovation to supporting development in Africa.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, UN Under Secretary General Wu Hongbo, and President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council H.E. Mr. Nestor Osorio (Colombia), together with senior policy makers and enterpreneurs, met in Dar Es Salaam on March 14, 2013 to discuss the role of innovation for development. The meeting was held in preparation for the Annual Ministerial Review of the UN Economic and Social Council, which will take place in Geneva from 1 to 4 July 2013. They called on the United Nations and WIPO to support greater emphasis on science, technology and innovation as key to enabling sustainable development in Africa.

Speaking earlier this week at the opening of a WIPO conference on innovation and intellectual property, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said “Leveraging and protecting Intellectual Property (IP) such as patents, copyrights and other similar forms is a key factor of promoting socio-economic growth and development of nations.” He added “It encourages innovation, invention and development of new technologies. It promotes both domestic and foreign investment, facilitates technology transfer and increases agricultural and industrial production. It is an imperative, therefore, that countries must put in place effective IP policies and related laws.”

“This meeting is a unique opportunity to define the key role that science, technology and innovation can play in achieving the development goals of the African continent,” Mr. Gurry said. “Any discussion on science, technology and innovation must consider the role played by intellectual property (IP).” He stressed that IP is an indispensable mechanism for translating knowledge into commercial assets, noting “IP rights create a secure environment for investment in innovation and provide a legal framework for trading intellectual assets. An investment in knowledge creation, and the maintenance of a robust and balanced IP system, should feature prominently in any strategy to ensure sustainable economic growth.”

“With a fast approaching MDG deadline and transition to a post-2015 development era, innovation is a very timely topic. Innovation is needed to meet our common development goals; it is important in the final push for the MDGs and in unleashing the potential for sustainable development,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo.

ECOSOC President Néstor Osorio also stressed that “Innovation is the essence of our modern society. Without harnessing its power, we will not be able to create healthy, educated or inclusive societies”.

The Ministerial meeting agreed on the following key priorities:

  • Innovation can bring benefits across all three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental, and is key to accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Discussions at ECOSOC must lead to a Ministerial Declaration that calls for much greater emphasis on the contribution that science, technology and innovation can make to achieving sustainable development in relation to the post 2015 development framework and implementation of the Rio+20 outcomes.
  • The global policy approach to technology and innovation must change to keep pace with changing models of innovation and the new geography of innovation. Innovation is increasingly open, global, networked and collaborative. The emergence of new innovation players in countries of the south creates new opportunites for Africa.
  • Technology and innovation partnerships for development must be multi-stakeholder and recognize the critical role of the private sector and harness the resources it offers.
  • Policymakers in Africa should redouble efforts to develop their legal and policy frameworks, including their intellectual property legislation and policy, so as to release the region’s untapped potential. Investments in education, research and development should be increased. Support in moving ideas to development and to market should be accelerated.
  • African countries need support to build their innovation infrastructure and the capacity to create domestic technology solutions to local development challenges, as well as to support the transfer, adaptation and dissemination of technology. Commitments of support should emerge from the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review.
  • ECOSOC should maximize its potential as a platform for multipe international efforts to support African countries on science, technolgy and innovation (STI) capacity building. It should identify mechanisms for greater coordination among providers of STI assistance.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the leading global forum for the promotion of intellectual property as a force for innovation and creativity to achieve positive change.

A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 185 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society’s evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

About ECOSOC

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is the principal United Nations body for coordinating and reviewing economic and social policies, providing advice and fostering dialogue on development issues. The Annual Ministerial Review, which was mandated at the 2005 World Summit, assesses the progress made in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the other goals and targets agreed at the major UN conferences and summits over the past 15 years, which constitute the United Nations Development Agenda (UNDA). Each year, the AMR focuses on a specific aspect of the UNDA. 

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