African Conference - Opening statement by H.E. Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania - March 12, 2013

Honourable Dr. Abdallah Kigoda, Minister for Industry and Trade;
Mr. Bruno Jean Richard Ihua, Chairman African Ministers Council on Science and Technology;
Honourable Ministers and Heads of delegation;
Dr. Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO);
Mr. Elberic Kacou, UN Resident Coordinator;
H.E. Masaki Okada, Ambassador of Japan to Tanzania;
Mr. Toshihiro Kose, Director General, Trademark, Design and Administration Affairs Department, Japan Patent Office,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Invited guests;
Distinguished participants;
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I thank you Dr. Francis Gurry, the Director General of WIPO, and your entire team for associating me with this all important African Conference on the Strategic Importance of Intellectual Property Policies to Foster Innovation, Value Creation and Competitiveness. I sincerely, thank you for choosing my dear country, Tanzania, to host this Conference. You have made us proud. We will always remain grateful for affording us this rare honour and privilege.

I also thank all the participants who have travelled many miles to come to Dar es Salaam to participate at this Conference. I welcome you all to Tanzania and Dar es Salaam in particular. I believe you have been received well. Please feel at home and enjoy the traditional Tanzanian hospitality. Your presence here is a clear testimony of your realisation of the strategic importance of intellectual property (IP) to Africa’s development.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a statement of fact that 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. 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. Developed countries have fully apprehended the dynamics of intellectual property in inevitably driving developments in their respective countries and in the global arena. Fortunately, many developing countries are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of IP in their development endeavours and are taking appropriate measures in this regard.

I am aware of the arguments from some corners that Intellectual Property may not be as beneficial to developing countries because it limits technology transfer through imitation. I know, also, the assertion that IP increases the prices of medicine, agricultural inputs and many other things. However, true this may be, embracing IP policies and measures is comparatively, far more beneficial to the overall growth of nations and economies than doing otherwise. Putting in place appropriate IP policies and measures are critical factors in promoting innovation and competitiveness which play key role in economic growth and sustainable development.

It is for this reason that many African countries have been taking serious steps to embrace, anchor and nurture IP. In recent times IP issues have been assuming centre stage in nations development strategies. On the whole, the level of commitment by African countries is increasing and accordingly, the support of international community has been forthcoming. The challenge before us is that of lack of adequate experts and institutional capacity to develop effective policies and related laws.

Distinguished participants;

Just like many other African countries, Tanzania is also aware of the benefits and role that intellectual property can play for accelerating the socio-economic development of our country. We know, for sure, that effective and strategic use of intellectual property has assisted many countries across the globe to attain rapid economic development. It has also assisted people in those countries to be creative and innovative, hence became economically competitive.

Aware of these realities, since 1983 we have intensified our collaboration with WIPO for the purpose of realising the benefits of intellectual property. We have established the Business Registrations and Licensing Agency (BRELA) with the mandate to administer industrial property laws in the country. We have also established the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA) which deals with copyright issues. The two institutions are doing a good job but there is a lot more work to do ahead of them.

We have already formulated our National IP Strategy and we are now in the process of formulating the National IP Policy. WIPO has been very instrumental in the modest achievements we have made todate. I would like to seize this opportunity to thank the Director General of WIPO for the invaluable financial and technical support extended to us in this regard. Thank you for walking with us in every step we have been taking. It has made a huge difference. I trust that the existing cooperation will be sustained and strengthened.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

We know for sure, that once the IP policy is in place and fully implemented, it will assist producers of industrial and agricultural products to compete effectively in the local, regional and global market place. We are fully aware that when products are identified with trade marks to distinguish them from similar products of competitors, they become more competitive in the market. The example of Ethiopian coffee farmers who have branded their coffee beans and are now reaping premium price for their products gives us inspiration. I am happy to note that WIPO is assisting Tanzania to develop a branding strategy for our distinctive agricultural products.

Apart from industrial and agro products, the IP policy will also support the growth of Creative or Copyright Based Industry in the country. At the moment the industry is growing fast and employs a large segment of the population, particularly our youths. It has a huge capacity and potential to employ many more in future. So far the Copyright Society of Tanzania has registered a large number of artists’ and literary work and continues to work tirelessly to curb piracy. We know, however, with an effective IP policy, we can do more, we can do better. Short of that, stakeholders will be discouraged and it will be a daunting task to cultivate a credible and attractive creative industry.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

As I alluded to earlier, one of the major challenges that many African countries are facing is lack of a critical mass of experts to formulate and enforce effective IP policies and related laws. We, in Tanzania are also facing the same challenge, but have decided to deal with it. I am happy to say that, the University of Dar es Salaam in collaboration with BRELA and the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (ARIPO) will soon sign an MoU to launch a masters degree program in IP. This will definitely help in easing and ultimately, eliminate the shortage of experts in the field of IP.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate and commend the University of Dar es Salaam, BRELA and ARIPO for the wise and visionary decision to address this important matter. I sincerely, hope that WIPO will extend the necessary support to this initiative and help make it a success.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Let me restate that, I have no doubt in my mind that properly anchoring use of intellectual property can contribute immensely to socio-economic development and eradication of poverty in our nations. Appropriate IP policies and laws coupled with an effective education system, availability of financial resources to pursue technological development and the presence of a network of supporting institutions and legal structures will deliver the desired results and benefits. Because many African countries are lagging behind, there is need to find ways of assisting them in building the capacity to formulate and implement IP policies and measures. The assistance should go beyond IP policies and embrace other related matters and sectors. In other words, IP policies should be integrated with development policies. May I use this opportunity to appeal to our development partners to explore the possibilities of increasing support to African countries in IP related issues. IP should be regarded as an integral part of the development issues they are engaged with. They should not be looked differently and dealt with in isolation.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Before I conclude my speech, it would be remiss of me if I concluded my remarks without recognising and commending the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (ARIPO) and the African Intellectual Property Organisation (AIPO) for the good work they have doing on the continent. These two regional organisations have been doing a wonderful job in creating awareness of IP matters in Africa despite limited resources and other constraints. I appeal to Member States to ensure that these two gallant organisations are well supported so as to be able to continue to do the good job they are doing. I would like to pledge Tanzania’s support. We look forward to strengthening our cooperation with these important organisations. I call upon the international community and regional organisations to enhance their support in order to strengthen these organisations and make them more responsive to Africa’s special needs.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

After these many words, I now have the honour and privilege to declare the African Conference on the Strategic Importance of Intellectual Property Policies to Foster Innovation, Value Creation and Competitiveness officially opened. I wish you every success and fruitful deliberations.

I thank you for your kind attention.