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WIPO Director General Concludes Official Visit to Cameroon; Participates in Heads of IP Offices Conference of OAPI Member States

June 4, 2024

WIPO Director General Daren Tang concluded a two-day working visit to the Republic of Cameroon on June 4, 2024 where he met Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute and other top officials and also took part in the maiden edition of the Heads of Intellectual Property Offices Conference (HIPOC) of African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI). It was the first visit ever of a WIPO Director General to both Cameroon and to OAPI headquarters.

WIPO Director General Daren Tang met on June 3, 2024, in Yaoundé, with Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute and six Cabinet Ministers (Photo: OAPI).

Bilateral Talks

During his first visit to Cameroon as Director General, Mr. Tang met with Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute along with key senior officials of the Cameroonian Government, including six Cabinet Ministers -  Minister of State/Higher Education Jacques Fame Ndongo, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Gabriel Mbairobe, Minister of Mines, Industry and Technological Development Calistus Gentry Fuh, Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development Alamine Ousmane Mey, Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises Achille Bassileken III, and Minister of Arts and Culture Pierre Ismaël Bidoung Kpwatt.

Discussions at this working session focused on ways to assist Cameroon to harness the intellectual property (IP) system in support of the country’s economic transformation as outlined in their Vision 2035 strategy. The Director General underscored the Organization’s vision of an inclusive IP system that supports everyone, everywhere, including groups that have traditionally been underserved by the IP system, like youth, women, and local communities.

The Prime Minister outlined his Government’s priorities in the field of IP, including strengthening of IP legislation, promoting respect for IP, and incorporating IP into other areas of the economy. Mr. Tang  highlighted the importance of adopting an ecosystem approach in developing the IP landscape of the country. He was keen to explore ways in which WIPO could support Cameroon to adopt an ecosystem approach in harnessing IP. Mr. Tang also noted the significance of the establishment of the AfCFTA for intra-African trade.

The Prime Minister welcomed WIPO’s support and expressed appreciation that Cameroon is the first francophone country he has visited during his tenure as Director General. He said the visit and meetings with other Cabinet Ministers would contribute to forging new ways of collaboration between Cameroon and WIPO.

Minister of State/Higher Education Jacques Fame Ndongo requested WIPO’s support to help build capacity of researchers, students and faculty to enable them to effectively use IP in the commercialization of research outcomes. This would also enable universities and higher education institutions to contribute to national economic development. 

Minister of Arts and Culture Pierre Ismaël Bidoung Kpwatt, looked forward to intensifying cooperation with WIPO in support of artists, creatives, publishers and the music industry, and to enhance the use of IP tools for the promotion of arts and culture in Cameroon.

Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development Alamine Ousmane Mey noted that creativity and innovation play an important role in Cameroon’s national development strategy. The country is not only looking to create jobs but also to generate revenue to support growth of the economy. Cameroon will capitalize on the AfCFTA as a market of creativity and innovation and would like to work with WIPO to consolidate the country’s IP strategy.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Gabriel Mbairobe welcomed stronger cooperation with WIPO on capacity building and awareness raising of stakeholders in the agricultural sector to enable them to fully exploit the IP system, especially in view of the accession of the OAPI (of which Cameroon is a member) to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement.

Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises Achille Bassileken III outlined the national program of incubation which allows young innovators to obtain support for their innovations. In this framework, they also accompany the young innovators through their FabLab to protect their innovations. He also noted several other national initiatives, including the prototyping fund which enables young innovators to obtain financing for prototyping their innovations through the national innovators’ competition. He recognized the need for further awareness raising and capacity building and looked forward to future collaboration with WIPO.

Minister of Mines, Industry and Technological Development Calistus Gentry Fuh said he looked forward to updating the National IP Development Plan which provided a framework for cooperation between Cameroon and WIPO taking into account new developments relating to the national development vision.

Mr. Tang acknowledged the growing transformation - not only in Africa, but generally in the global south – of the IP dynamic around the world. This included the rise of the creative economies, the need to protect cultural heritage and other developments that intensified the need for an inclusive IP system that is capable of evolving.

The Director General suggested a revision of the National IP Strategy and making it part of the National Development Plan, bringing all sectors together to enable Cameroon to benefit fully from the IP system. He said the WIPO Academy skills development programs could help youth and other groups to develop their skills and support their innovation journeys. He noted other WIPO tools, services and projects in support of creators, SMEs, women in agribusiness, entrepreneurship and Traditional Medical practitioners. Mr. Tang pledged WIPO’s commitment to support Cameroon to bring IP to the grassroots. 

Concluding the intensive dialogue, the Prime Minister proposed to establish an inter-ministerial committee to develop a Plan of Action for provision of WIPO support in all key sectors of the economy.

The Director General also held a series of bilateral meetings with individual ministers to expand on issues that were raised during the working meeting with the Prime Minister.

Opening of HIPOC - OAPI

Speaking to OAPI representatives at the Heads of Intellectual Property Offices Conference (HIPOC) of OAPI Member States, the Director General advocated for moving away from agencies that focus on registration of IP rights to being more innovation-oriented entities, supporting capacity building towards innovation-led economies.

OAPI Director General Denis Bohoussou noted with appreciation the fact that Mr. Tang’s visit marked the first time a WIPO Director General had visited OAPI. He also noted the first conference of the heads of IP offices of the OAPI Member States and appreciated the high-level presence of government officials, symbolizing the interest of the Government of Cameroon in IP.

The Director General noted the importance of AfCFTA for the development of Africa. He hoped discussions among OAPI Member States would focus on ways to support stakeholders in using more effectively the IP system in branding and commercializing their products for improved market access.

Mr. Tang pointed out the blossoming creativity of African youth and noted that IP will be an important tool to bring African ideas to the market.  He urged IP offices to transform to innovation agencies and to connect IP better with political and global leaders. The Director General urged OAPI countries to work together and draw on each other’s strengths.

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