World Intellectual Property Organization

African Leaders Launch High-Level Conference on Intellectual Property for an Emerging Continent

Dakar, Senegal, November 3, 2015
PR/2015/784

Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Senegal Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne joined WIPO Director General Francis Gurry in stressing the importance of intellectual property (IP) in incentivizing innovation and creativity to promote economic and social development across Africa.

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Some 50 government ministers from across the continent attended the November 3 opening of the three-day “African Ministerial Conference 2015: Intellectual Property (IP) for an Emerging Africa,” held in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

“Ultimately, the source of all innovation and creativity is human,” said Mr. Gurry in welcoming the delegates. “And Africa is the cradle of humanity, so it is in this sense the origin of all innovation and creativity that characterizes our species as human beings.”

Well-developed national intellectual property systems can help African countries unlock their citizens’ creativity and innovation, boosting economic growth, he said.

“Intellectual property is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of a healthy and vibrant innovation ecosystem,” he added. “It is a means of capturing a competitive advantage that is conferred by innovation and it is a means of rewarding investment, human and financial resources, in the generation of new knowledge and innovation.” Mauritius President Gurib-Fakim cited positive economic growth prospects for African countries over the next decade and highlighted the “imperative need for Africa to protect IP rights in order to build sustainable knowledge economies by leveraging the benefits of science, technology and innovation.”

“In this globally fiercely competitive international economic landscape, the creation and management including protection of knowledge will be central to building and spearheading wealth creation and integration in the global economy,” said President Gurib-Fakim.

She said policies should include IP system tools to unlock and promote the value of assets that are unique to Africa, such as local medicinal plants and traditional knowledge. Africa, she said, should also “strive to prioritize opportunities unleashed by the digital revolution in the areas of science, technology, innovation and creativity.

“There is urgency for public policy debate, coordination, integration and the involvement of all stakeholders in order to frame new ways to foster the development of intangibles and to promote innovation and creativity,” she said, “innovation is by construction and not instruction.”

Noting that the protection of IP rights should be accompanied by adequate measures of incentives and support, President Gurib-Fakim called for the setting up of a fund for African innovators to access the necessary capital to support start-ups.

To applause, President Gurib-Fakim concluded: “Those nations that go all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.”

Senegalese Prime Minister Dionne called the conference timely, due to the challenges facing Africa. He added that intellectual property can help ensure sustainable and inclusive development resulting in poverty reduction and increased economic competitivity. “Innovation is the basis of all development,” he said.

Martial De-Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology of the African Union, a conference organizer, said: “It’s the role of intellectual property organizations in Africa to push African leaders to understand that there is an entire edifice to build that will allow our youth to cross the Rubicon - to break the glass ceiling and partake in the excitement of the of the inventor, to dare to become the first in their country, in the region and even the first in the world to propose a solution to a social ill.”

Takashi Kitahara, Ambassador of Japan to Senegal, Embassy of Japan in Senegal, said that “it is essential to assure the appropriate protections via the intellectual property system and guarantee its strategic use.” The government of Japan was a co-organizer of the conference.

The opening ceremony was followed by a high level segment on “Africa in a Knowledge-Based Economy-Challenges and Opportunities.”

The Dakar meeting brought together over 400 participants, including some 50 ministers responsible for intellectual property, trade and culture as well as private sector groups to chart a plan for boosting the uptake of intellectual property tools to help stimulate economic and social development across Africa.

The ministerial meeting was preceded on November 2, 2015 by a workshop bringing together some 50 young African innovators and creators to talk about IP, innovation and creativity.

Background

About IP: Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

About IP and Africa: There is increasing recognition in the global knowledge-based economy that IP and innovation are two important contributory factors for economic, social and cultural development, better competitiveness of industries as well as enhanced trade.

African nations are embracing the knowledge-based economy in order to access the opportunities it offers for poverty reduction, enhanced agricultural productivity, as well as the prospects for industrial competitivity, which could pave the way for sustainable and inclusive development.

About the Conference: The conference aims to highlight the relevance of IP in promoting innovation and scientific and technological transformation of African economies. It will also show how IP can contribute to the realization of the priorities identified in the Common African Position (CAP) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. And it will provide an arena for discussion on the role of IP for innovation and creativity in the continent.

The conference will also:

  • Address governments’ role in creating an enabling environment for the use of IP and innovation for development;
  • Facilitate a better understanding and appreciation of the importance of the strategic use of the IP system as an engine for scientific and technological transformation, economic and social development and poverty reduction for Africa;
  • Encourage governments to put in place IP policies and innovation strategies aimed at building the countries’ capacity to apply science, technology and innovation for development;
  • Give participants the tools and the means to keep abreast with the latest trends and business models in the digital environment;
  • Explore ways to increase the participation of African countries in the digital economy by encouraging ratification/access to key international copyright treaties;
  • Contribute to advancing the implementation of a framework and infrastructure which enhances the business performance and competitiveness of creative industries to support economic, cultural and development objectives.

The conference is jointly organized by WIPO, the African Union (AU) the Government of the Republic of Senegal and the Government of Japan under the Japan Funds-in-Trust for Africa and Least-Developed Countries (LDCs).

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 188 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.

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