Empowering African Women in Agribusiness through Knowledge and Resources: WIPO Regional Conference on Intellectual Property for Women in Agribusiness
Over 120 women entrepreneurs in agribusiness from across Africa attended WIPO’s regional IP conference in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 15 to 17, 2023, to learn how intellectual property (IP) could enhance the value of their products and drive business growth.
The conference served as a platform for knowledge exchange, offering insights on IP protection. Several women “agripreneurs” shared their personal brand development journeys, challenges as well as successes experienced with the IP system, while others learnt new ways of using the IP system in creating value for their businesses. The conference also provided an opportunity to share experiences and network with other African women in the agriculture value chain, including the African Women in Trade (AWT) and the African Women in Processing Initiative (AWP).
One of the many women “agripreneurs” who shared such experiences was Ms. Ann Chiuri, aged 39, from Kenya, the founder of Exotiq, Lyd Organics - a skincare brand that uses goat milk and plant botanicals to create nourishing skincare products. Chiuri's interest in farming grew from her desire to find a solution for healthy living and boosting the immune system after she lost her mother to cancer when she was 17 years old.
Through the conference, Chiuri gained valuable knowledge and skills on safeguarding her IP rights, as well as strategies to expand into the global market.
"As African women, our trade is penetrating more regionally and in the international markets. Through, WIPO we are getting a seat at the table to grow ourselves, to grow our communities and our economy,” Chiuri said.
Highlighting the significance of the conference, WIPO Director General Tang emphasized, " For Africa, in as much as agriculture remains the backbone of most economies, it is our desire to promote innovations in women-led agribusinesses in Africa by helping them understand and use IP to take their ideas to the world.”
WIPO organized the Regional Conference on IP for Women in Agribusiness in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the Government of the Republic of Rwanda, and the Regional IP Organizations (ARIPO and OAPI), with the financial support of the Japan Patent Office (JPO). The conference aimed to empower African women agripreneurs by providing them with the requisite IP knowledge and resources to thrive in their businesses. This, in turn, translates into increased sources of income for women and their households. With improved income levels, women have greater purchasing power, allowing them to afford sufficient quantities and higher quality of food for their families.
Over the course of three days, participants engaged in workshops on various IP topics such as patent and trademark registration, trade secret protection, and IP enforcement, all aiming to enhance their competitiveness and improve their market share.
Women in Agribusiness
African women continue to be the backbone of the agricultural sector, and according to the WTO's 2022 Trade Profiles report, they comprise more than 50 percent of the agricultural labor force, including those involved in agribusiness. However, they face several challenges such as a lack of ownership or control of land, access to finance, and market information. The conference addressed how IP can help overcome many of these challenges.
IP plays a vital role in food security through the enhancement of food access and availability. Empowering agribusinesses in food production and processing could boost the overall supply of food in the long term, contributing to UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 of creating a world free of hunger by 2030.
A WIPO project to help women in agribusiness effectively use the IP system for product branding and commercialization will follow the conference. This project will select 30 women-led agribusinesses for mentoring and coaching to empower them to capitalize on IP tools and seize new opportunities for growth.
The Regional Conference on Intellectual Property for Women in Agribusiness was organized in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 15-17, 2023, through a collaborative effort between WIPO, the African Union Commission, the Government of the Republic of Rwanda, and the Regional IP Organizations (ARIPO and OAPI). The conference received financial support from the Japan Patent Office (JPO).
The conference aimed to empower African women entrepreneurs in agriculture by providing them with knowledge and resources to thrive in their businesses.