November 24, 2023
WIPO Director General Daren Tang wrapped up on November 24, 2023 a two-day official visit to Botswana where he met President Mokgweetsi Masisi for wide-ranging discussions on how best WIPO can support Botswana in building an intellectual property-supported knowledge-based economy.
President Masisi is committed to evolving his country’s economy into one that is based on knowledge and innovation and said his Government is investing heavily in creating an environment that fosters innovation.
The President also addressed the WIPO Assemblies earlier this year, highlighting the importance of IP for developing countries. He said: “While often viewed through the lens of developed nations, it is imperative that we recognize the significance of IP in the developing world, particularly in Africa”.
President Masisi reiterated his strong belief in the transformative potential of IP and WIPO’s important role in creating a balanced and inclusive IP system in his remarks to the ARIPO Council of Ministers that met in Gaborone.
He told ministers that for some time now his Government has been working to transform the economy from resource-based to knowledge-based,” and noted “We have realized that IP cannot be left to the sidelines if this is to become a reality.”
President Masisi recognized WIPO’s support to African countries in strengthening innovation ecosystems. He said “A strong partnership exists between WIPO and ARIPO” under the leadership of Director General Tang and his staff, which he described as “refreshed, energized, astute and well-resourced.”
“On behalf of ARIPO Member States, we express appreciation for the support you have extended to us,” President Masisi said while committing to be a strong advocate for the African Union to embrace “WIPO, IP and ARIPO.”
The President shared WIPO’s vision of intellectual property as a powerful catalyst for jobs, investments, business growth and economic and social development and welcomed WIPO’s work towards building a more inclusive IP ecosystem. One the President’s key priorities is to strengthen the innovation ecosystem with IP being a core part of policies to promote growth and development.
This was echoed by ministers and other officials at meetings in Gaborone where discussions focused on potential areas of collaboration and concrete projects. These included capacity building projects, focusing on startups and SMEs, women, youth and indigenous peoples and local communities.
Among the ideas that were discussed was the setting up of a cross-sectoral Ministerial committee that would report to the President on the implementation of the National IP Policy and Strategy. This would ensure that programs and activities are strategic, resources are made available and outcomes are guaranteed. Mr. Tang said WIPO would support this initiative.
Minister of Trade and Industry Mmusi Kgafela welcomed the idea of a horizontal approach to priority setting and working towards a common objective, namely to build a knowledge and innovation-based economy. Minister of Entrepreneurship Karabo Socraat Gare emphasized the need for a joint approach to efforts aimed at strengthening the innovation ecosystem.
They also agreed on the importance of raising awareness of IP at the grassroots and building a culture that understands and values IP.
The Director General also met with Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Tumiso Macdonald Rakgare and Minister of Education and Development Douglas Letsholathebe. Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva and Ambassador to Switzerland, was present at all meetings in Gaborone.
Mr. Tang also met with Caretaker Registrar General of the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) Joel Ramaphoi, Registrar Industrial Property: Mr. Timothy Leatile Moalusi and other CIPA officials.
In addition, Mr. Tang visited the Botswana Digital and Innovation Hub, an innovative and networked organization that promotes technology, entrepreneurship and commercialization. Speaking to innovators and academics at the Hub he said innovation requires a space where it can flourish – like the Botswana Hub. Such institutions create a sense of community and promote collaboration – both of which are key to innovation.
Mr. Tang urged the audience of researchers, academics and innovators to look at IP not just from the angle of protection but also from commercialization. This, he said, requires the right tools and capabilities to succeed and this is where WIPO can play a role by working with the relevant government institutions as they put in place the right policies and structures to allow innovation to flourish. WIPO, he said, is also prepared to provide training to help build capacity. He said WIPO will work with Botswana partners on concrete projects that will bring alive the value of IP on the ground.
The Director General also met a group of creatives to talk about the challenges of making a living in the creative sector. He presented CLIP, a new online platform to raise creators’ awareness of IP rights and related management practices, aiming to ensure they receive recognition and fair reward for their work.
Along with President Masisi, ARIPO Director General Bemanya Twebaze and ministers from ARIPO’s 22 member states, the Director General attended the 19th Session of the ARIPO Council of Ministers.
Mr. Tang said Africa’s future will be shaped by the ideas and ingenuity of its people. He cited IP rights statistics for Africa that “tell a story of growth.” African patent filings, he noted, reached their highest level in more than 20 years last year. Over the past 10 years, only in Asia have patent filings grown faster.
Further, filings through ARIPO performed well. Trademarks applications increased by 13 percent last year, with designs in applications up by almost 50 percent, driven by a strong rise in resident filings.
Mr. Tang noted that venture capital deals grew by almost 50% in Africa in 2022, the only region to avoid a decline in VC investments. Similarly, he said, the creative industries are booming.
“African creators are driving a cultural renaissance. Already Africa’s creative industries generate over 4 billion dollars in revenue, and this is really just the beginning.”
“Propelled by these and other trends, intellectual property continues to shift from the periphery to the center of ARIPO economies, serving not just legal rights, but increasingly as a powerful catalyst for jobs, entrepreneurship, investments, business growth and sustainable economic and social development,” Mr. Tang told the Council.
In addition, he noted that IP offices in the region are transforming from registries to innovation catalysts and agencies. He assured ministers that WIPO will continue to travel this journey with their countries and will continue to deliver concrete, impactful projects to support those innovating and creating at the grassroots.
He said that the Organization is supporting seven ARIPO members to develop, implement and update National IP Strategies, and that soon 20 ARIPO Members will use IPAS, WIPO’s IP Administration software. WIPO is also delivering concrete, impactful projects to support those innovating and creating at the grassroots.
“We have launched 90 impact-driven projects around the world in the past two years, many of which are in ARIPO Member States. These including supporting women entrepreneurs in agribusiness, new training and mentoring for youth and SMEs, bringing IP closer to traditional medicine practitioners and supporting local handicrafts and knowledge through IP driven projects,” he said.
Mr. Tang underlined that partnerships are at the heart of the Organization’s approach and lauded the “close and longstanding cooperation with our friends and colleagues at ARIPO,” adding “let's continue to work together to bring IP to the grassroots, build a more balanced and inclusive global IP ecosystem that works for everyone, everywhere.”