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Sponsored Report | ARIPO: Championing Africa’s intellectual property

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Sponsored Report | ARIPO: Championing Africa’s intellectual property

Sponsored Report | Although it is little known thus far on the continent, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has been quietly and steadily touching the lives of millions of Africans in terms of copyrights, trademarks, patents, and other forms of intellectual property. It has just celebrated its 40th anniversary and inaugurated its brand new headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe (pictured below). As Africa’s intellect-based output increases, it is time for ARIPO to emerge from the shadows and take its rightful place among the continent’s crucial pan-African institutions. Reportage by Baffour Ankomah.

If you are an African, chances are that if you are stopped in the streets today and asked if you have ever heard of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), you will respond by asking ARI-who? But for the past 40 years, ARIPO’s activities have touched your life in many ways without you knowing.


Without ARIPO, and its Francophone counterpart, the Organisation Afraicaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI), most African inventors would have found it difficult to protect their Intellectual Property (IP) rights on African soil.


In fact, ARIPO has been key to protecting Africa’s intellectual property rights through patents, trademarks, copyrights, utility models, industrial designs, plant varieties, traditional knowledge and expressions of folklore, and geographical indications as well as contributing towards the shaping of the African and global intellectual property landscape.

Without ARIPO, and its Francophone counterpart, the Organisation Afraicaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI), most African inventors would have found it difficult to protect their Intellectual Property (IP) rights on African soil. Thus, quiet ARIPO has been a big saviour although most Africans do not know that it exists at all or is working on behalf of their countries.

As ARIPO’s current Director General, Fernando dos Santos, explains: “The IP system creates incentives for people who come out with innovative ideas to solve problems facing society.” It does so by protecting their rights so that they are not robbed of the products of their minds.

According to Emmanuel Sackey, ARIPO’s Intellectual Property Development Executive, “because IP relates to the creations of the mind (the
fruits of intellectual endeavour) today we see IP as playing a central role in driving the economies of nations. It is crucial to the development of mankind.” Remarkably, for a long time ARIPO took it for granted that people knew about the organisation and the good work it does, but in reality even in its member states, the majority of people do not know that ARIPO exists at all.

This is a function of the ‘echo-chamber’ effect in which because our activity is important to us and we are surrounded by people for whom it is also important, we mistakenly project that ‘echo’ to outside the chamber and believe that everybody else must know all about us. Many African institutions suffer from this effect without being aware of it and go unrecognised for decades – until, hopefully, somebody realises that they need to actively reach out to the wider world.

Thankfully, that realisation has dawned and ARIPO is determined to make up for lost time. Director General Dos Santos says: “ARIPO’S current
vision is to be pan-African and the leading IP hub in Africa. We adopted our current vision to foster creativity and innovation for economic growth and development on the continent.” It is just and right that ARIPO’s many achievements should be well publicised throughout Africa and the world. Having grown from humble beginnings from its birth in 1976, ARIPO has matured into an IP giant today, with a brand new
headquarters complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, that will be the envy of any organisation destined to do great things in the future.

With 19 member countries, and many more waiting in the wings to join, ARIPO celebrated its 40th anniversary on 9 December, 2016 with a proclamation that many will find it difficult to disagree with: “Truly an African success story”, the anniversary brochure proudly announced.

Says Director General dos Santos: “ARIPO has travelled a long journey with many challenges but always with achievements around the next bend in the road. The world is constantly changing around us, and with it our working environment, and so we, at ARIPO, have gone on to reach levels that may not have been accessible at the time when the organisation was established by the Lusaka Agreement on 9 December 1976 in Lusaka, Zambia.”

What is ARIPO?
ARIPO is an intergovernmental organisation that facilitates cooperation among member states in intellectual property matters, with the objective of pooling financial and human resources, and seeking technological advancement for economic, social, technological, scientific, and industrial development. Thus, cooperation – with member countries and other international organisations – is the key to ARIPO’s success.

It has 19 member states: Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique,  Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, São
Tomé e Príncipe, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. An additional 12 countries have observer status and can be considered potential members. Before ARIPO’s birth, most independent African countries had a “dependent industrial property legislation” which did not provide for original grant or registration of IP rights in the countries concerned. Therefore, those countries could only protect IP rights through the extension of the effects of the IP rights registered in a foreign country (in most cases the UK,
France, and Portugal) and governed by the laws of that foreign country. This was because of the colonial history of the African countries.

However, 12 Francophone African countries met in Libreville, Gabon, on 13 September 1962 to sign an agreement for the creation of the Office Africain et Malgache de la Propriété Industrielle (OAMPI), which looked after the IP rights of Francophone Africa.

Fifteen years later (on 2 March 1977), the Libreville Agreement was revised at a meeting in Bangui, Central African Republic, to give birth to OAPI, when Malgache (or Madagascar) was dropped from the name.

Headquartered in Cameroon, OAPI today has 17 member countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, and Togo. But while OAMPI lasted, it left Englishspeaking Africa without an IP system of its own. Thus, at a regional seminar held in Nairobi, Kenya, in the early 1970s to discuss patents and copyrights issues, English-speaking Africa decided to establish a collective IP system that would enable them to pool resources for industrial property matters to avoid the duplication of human and financial resources, and to support technological advancement.

Fortunately, in 1973, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) responded to a request for assistance by Englishspeaking Africa, and a year later the two UN agencies organised several meetings at which what is now ARIPO took shape.

Constituted into two committees, one on Patents and the other on Trademarks and Industrial Designs, Anglophone Africa drafted an agreement at those meetings for the creation of an Industrial Property Organisation for English-Speaking Africa (ESARIPO).

On 9 December 1976, the draft agreement was approved by representatives of eight countries: The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Somalia, Uganda, and Zambia – at a diplomatic conference held at the Mulungushi Hall in Lusaka, Zambia, and ESARIPO was born. The agreement subsequently became known as the Lusaka Agreement, and was ratified by five of the signatory countries: The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia – which became the first five members of ESARIPO when the agreement entered into force on 15 February 1978.

In effect, what is now ARIPO began life as an institution for the protection of industrial property rights. But in 1985, the Lusaka Agreement was
amended to open up membership to all African countries that were members of UNECA or the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Thus, the
“English Speaking” part of the name was dropped in 1985, leaving the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation, reflecting its new pan-African outlook. The name was further changed in 2003 when the organisation acquired a broader mandate for copyright and related rights beyond industrial property; thus it became simply known as the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), in acknowledgement of the embrace of the full spectrum of intellectual property.

In 1976, ESARIPO had started without a secretariat of its own and relied on the goodwill of its original patrons, UNECA and WIPO, and the government of Kenya, until a permanent secretariat was established in Zimbabwe in February 1982, hosted by the government of Zimbabwe.

The secretariat has evolved over the last 35 years into a fine headquarters complex, built at a cost of $5m. It was opened on 9 December 2016 to coincide with ARIPO’s 40th anniversary celebrations. The HQ complex was financed from ARIPO’s own resources and that of its member states and staff contributions.

Today, to ensure that ARIPO leverages on its achievements to foster creativity and innovation for economic growth and development in Africa, it has developed an innovative “Value and Growth Transformation Strategic Framework 2016-2020”, which will guide its activities in the next four years.

The legal framework
ARIPO is governed by three organs established by the Lusaka Agreement: A Council of Ministers (the supreme organ, composed by Ministers of member states responsible for the administration of IP laws which meets every two years); an Administrative Council (which meets every year, made up of the heads of national IP offices of member countries); and a Secretariat which implements the organisation’s programmes and runs its day-to-day affairs, headed by a Director General. In 40 years, ARIPO has had five Director Generals, each of whom is allowed a maximum of two four-year terms in office. The current Director General, Fernando dos Santos, is serving his second term.

ARIPO now administers one agreement and four protocols on behalf of member states and clients. They are: The Lusaka Agreement, which is the constitutive legal instrument of the organisation, the Harare Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs; the Banjul Protocol on Marks; the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore; and the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants.


Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) allows the rights-holder to exclude others from commercially exploiting the rights covered by the holder in a certain country or region and for a specific period of time.


Basically, intellectual property rights (IPR) have two important functions – recognition and benefits. Through protection, an IPR allows the rights-holder to exclude others from commercially exploiting the rights covered by the holder in a certain country or region and for a specific period of time.

Thus, under the Harare Protocol (which came into force on 25 April 1984), ARIPO is entitled to receive and process patent, utility models and industrial design applications for a fee. The protocol offers choice and flexibility and enables applicants to obtain protection for patents and petty patents (utility models). It also allows the conversion of utility models to patents and vice versa. For Africa, utility models are very important as the continent is endowed with indigenous technologies and innovative skills.

Similarly, the Banjul Protocol, which deals with both service marks and trademarks, empowers ARIPO to register marks for goods and services in respect of, and on behalf of, the contracting states. The protocol entered into force on 6 March 1997 but even after 20 years not all ARIPO members are “contracting states”. There is also the Swakopmund Protocol, named after the Namibian coastal city where the conference that gave birth to the protocol was held. It came into force on 11 May 2015. Its objective is to protect the holders of traditional knowledge against any infringement of their rights. It also protects expressions of folklore against misappropriation, misuse and unlawful exploitation.

The newest Protocol in the ARIPO stable is the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. Signed at a diplomatic conference held in Arusha, Tanzania, on 6 July 2015, the protocol has so far been signed by five member states – The Gambia, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and São Tomé e Príncipe. It will come into force when four member states deposit their instruments of ratification or accession.

The Arusha Protocol covers all plant genera and species, and grants and protects breeders’ rights. When it comes into effect, it will allow ARIPO to develop effective protection systems for plant varieties in the participating member countries.

What does ARIPO do?
In the last 40 years, ARIPO’s main objective has been transformed from the harmonisation of IP laws to an efficient system of protection and administration of intellectual property rights on behalf of member states. To this end, ARIPO has repositioned itself to play a leading role in providing efficient services through the use of modern ICT tools.

Furthermore, ARIPO has also increased its technical support to address key IP priority areas including IP advocacy, capacity building, awareness creation, and enhancing the IP ecosystem for the social, cultural, economic and technological development of Africa. One of the objectives of ARIPO is to assist its members, as appropriate, in the acquisition and development of technology relating to industrial property. In a knowledge-based society, IP has become integral to such diverse areas as trade, investment, food, health, culture, science and technology, etc.

According to Gift Sibanda, the last Director General of ARIPO, “member states derive benefits in a number of areas, including the realisation of financial benefits through the operations of ARIPO protocols, benefits accruing from technology support services, improvements in the management of copyrights and related rights, participation in training activities, and accruing some benefits from ARIPO’s strategic partners.”

Also, because member states benefit from incomes generated from the ARIPO protocols, it is the only pan-African institution whose membership does not create any financial burden to their respective governments. Further, national IP offices can also utilise such income to develop their respective IP systems and initiatives in the promotion of IP.

Additionally, ARIPO is a repository of technological information which, upon request,can be made available to users of IP information in member and potential member states for the purpose of facilitating the adaptation, transfer and acquisition of appropriate technology, the development of local research, and the creation of indigenous technology.

To facilitate quick searches, and establish fast communication between ARIPO and member states or among member states themselves, as well as the world outside ARIPO, the organisation has upgraded its ICT infrastructure into a state-of-the-art system called
POLite+, a web-based automated IP system with such features as e-filing, e-notification, e-search, access to online publications, and an IP digital library. Inaugurated on 2 March 2015, the ICT upgrade was done with the support of WIPO and the South Korean government under a programme funded by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

The upgrade has brought increased automation of business processing of applications, cutting down the processing time by 50%, reducing the communication costs between member states and the ARIPO HQ by 80%, while online filing uptake and communication with applicants has increased by 40%. ARIPO hopes that this will soon increase to 90% of all filings.

To further improve its business operations and the linkages with member states, ARIPO aims to create an online IP regional database, the digitalisation of all IP data in both member countries and at the ARIPO headquarters, online filing and file inspection, an Internet publication service, an IP status tracking system for applications, online payment, etc.

ARIPO Academy
On 15 February 2006, ARIPO inaugurated its Regional Training Centre attached to its headquarters, where workshops, seminars and training courses to advance IP knowledge were held.

In November 2010, the name of the training centre was changed to the ARIPO Academy, whose functions have since included the sponsorship of selected students for a Masters Degree in Intellectual Property at the Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, with a possible expansion soon to other universities such as the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana.

The Masters in Intellectual Property programme has since graduated 218 students from 25 countries across Africa. In all, more than 5,000 people have benefited from ARIPO training programmes. In 2014, ARIPO launched a flagship programme called “Roving National Seminars”, which has directly benefited more than 2,000 participants in 14 member countries.

“These seminars,” explains Emmanuel Sackey, ARIPO’s Intellectual Property Development Executive, “are held over one week, and different stakeholders are brought to discuss issues pertaining to IP rights and how they can be used in the areas of interest. We felt that policy makers in member states were not familiar with IP, so they could not establish appropriate policies and come up with legislative instruments appropriate to the needs of Africa.”

Through the roving seminars, which are hosted by member states, ARIPO has given expert knowledge to businesses, researchers, lawyers and innovators to keep them abreast with developments in local and global IP services.

As ARIPO’s second Director General, Justice Anderson Ray Zikonda puts it: “ARIPO has become a shining example of African states collaborating with a common purpose to achieve success as a pan- African organisation. ARIPO is truly a success story which every one of its member states should feel proud of.”

(ARIPO can be reached at: 11 Natal Road, Belgravia, Harare, Zimbabwe. Tel: +263 4 794 065/74/54. Mobile: +263 731 020 609. Email: mail@aripo.org Website: www.aripo.org)

 


 

African prosperity hinges on intellectual property

Today, the world is driven by the knowledge economy and the value of intellectual property (IP) has never been higher. But, while others have fully exploited and commercialised their IP, Africa is still playing catch-up and a great deal of confusion over this complex area still gets in the way. In this interview, Fernando dos Santos (pictured below), the Director General of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), tells Baffour Ankomah why his organisation is so vital to the continent’s prosperity.

Q: Why is intellectual property relevant to African countries and their citizens?

A: First of all, it is important to emphasise that intellectual property has always been here with us in Africa. It is not new to us. If we consider that mankind was born in Africa, it follows that this is the place where creativity, innovation, and knowledge were born. And it is this capacity of mankind to be creative and innovative that forms the basis of intellectual property (IP).

But when IP was systematised much later, it did not take into account the specificities of African knowledge and its mechanisms of protection. So we are now trying to catch up. In fact, we are really behind.

Today, IP has become so important because we are in a knowledge economy and the whole world revolves around knowledge, so we have to harness the African knowledge to develop our continent. To that end, there is a need for a balanced IP system.

It has been echoed several times that the African continent is rich in natural resources, in culture, folklore, and traditional knowledge. But if we are that rich, why are we not developing? The simple answer is because we are not adding value to the wealth that is on the continent by using IP tools. So IP cannot be divorced from the future development of this continent.

We know this is what is happening in Asia. They have put in place the necessary structures to harness their potential and we are beginning to see the astronomical growth emerging from the continent. So we have to see ourselves running the same race in which, in order to compete, we are required to use wisely the same tools but in a creative manner that gives us competitive and comparative advantages over those who have gone ahead and used IP tools to stay ahead.

Can you break the IP tools down for the man in the street to understand?

Maybe. Let’s start from the beauty of our African beaches. A beach needs infrastructure, marketing, and branding. For a beach to have value and attract tourists, it needs to be branded.

With regards to mineral resources, value addition is critical, to leverage on their potential. We cannot recognise diamonds in their raw form because they are just stones. Those stones need to be polished and branded before they are appreciated by the consumer for their quality and utility. So patenting, branding, and marketing are very important for leveraging our mineral resources.

We also have unique products in agriculture such as food crops, cash crops and horticulture. Value can be added by using an IP tool called geographical indications, which help you to capitalise on the origin of a product and link that origin to a specific quality that can only be found when the product comes from a specific place. For example, champagne from a region of France. The same applies to traditional knowledge, including traditional medicines, folklore, handicrafts, etc., which if properly harnessed will bring much benefit to the continent.

A vivid example is Nigerian movies today. They have become really famous. But one interesting thing that Nigerian filmmakers have done is to go back in time to recover the stories that we all know in Africa, which are not even unique to Nigeria. But the Nigerian filmmakers have added value to the stories by telling them in a completely different way and putting them on film. Now the stories are not just folklore, they have been turned into a consumable product whose copyright is held by the filmmakers who are earning from it because their rights are protected.


“ARIPO has established a system for the registration of intellectual property rights and simplified it to make it accessible to all users.”


If you were to explain to a layman in the street the work that ARIPO does, what would you say?

I would say that we have been able to bring together a number of African countries to discuss and set a path and a vision for an IP system that enables innovators, creators, entrepreneurs, and Africans in general to derive maximum benefits from their endeavours.

ARIPO has established a system for the registration of intellectual property rights and simplified it to make it accessible to all users. Also, ARIPO has been actively involved in creating awareness and building capacities on the continent about intellectual property at seminars, conferences, colloquia, and workshops.

But most importantly, we have come up with a Masters degree programme on intellectual property that is serving the continent as a whole, not only ARIPO members.

We started the Masters programme at the African University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. We provide scholarships and as a result we have trained 218 people from 25 countries across Africa who are contributing positively to the development of the IP systems in their respective countries by serving as officers in IP offices, as patents and trademark attorneys, and in teaching IP in the universities.

We now have the possibility of expanding the Masters programme to other African universities. The next one will be at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, and at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. These are in the pipeline but we would like to see them happen all over the continent.

ARIPO celebrated its 40th anniversary on 9 December 2016 when the new headquarters building was formally inaugurated. Tell us about some of ARIPO’s achievements in the past 40 years?

There have been great achievements in terms of harmonisation of laws, policies and strategies in IP, infrastructure development, capacity building, training, information sharing, and improvement and modernisation of the system for the administration of IP rights.

ARIPO has positioned itself as an important platform to streamline IP laws, policies and strategies in its member states and in trying to define the IP tools, which serves them better. Specifically, with regard to the IP legal framework, ARIPO has been continuously empowered to incorporate an increasing number of mandates, namely industrial property, copyright, traditional knowledge and folklore and new varieties of plants. As a result, the institutional framework was enhanced from the initial Lusaka Agreement to the current four protocols that facilitate the administration of that increasing number of rights.

With regard to the administration of those IP rights, capacity was developed not only to administer them at the ARIPO level but also to support the member states to improve their capacity and in their quest to deliver quality services. The operationalisation of an ICT infrastructure allows currently, the registration of applications online. ARIPO is now in a position to receive applications online and all related services such as searches, payments, and follow-ups of the applications are all done online.

The ICT infrastructure is now being linked to the member countries. We have the first two pilot countries – Mozambique and Zimbabwe – which are linked to our ICT infrastructure at the headquarters and soon that system will include all member states through a regional database. With those improvements, users can enjoy a more efficient and reliable mechanism of protection of their IP rights. As a result of that we have seen the number of applications of the different IP rights, especially patents and utility models, growing each year.

You have also been strong in the area of capacity building, haven’t you?

Yes, ARIPO has also made strides regarding capacity building. The organisation has been very active in training people to understand IP not only at the level of the Master’s Degree as illustrated previously, but also we have been able to organise a number of awareness-raising initiatives, including roving seminars.

Just in the last three years we have visited 16 out of the 19 member states and that benefitted over 2,000 participants directly. Training initiatives organised by ARIPO in collaboration with other partners in the IP arena allowed more than 5,000 people from different countries to be trained.

Member states have also benefitted from capacity building through study visits to ARIPO undertaken by their officers, examiners, and managers, and from technical assistance from ARIPO in their offices, especially with regard to the processing of ARIPO applications.

In order to keep abreast with all those developments, we also streamlined our management systems, including our processes and organisational structures, financial, and human capital management. We have placed people in the right places and they are able to deliver more today because they are very well placed and they know where they are heading to. This was achieved through the Value and Growth Transformation Strategy that will guide our activities in the period 2016-2020.

It is also part of that initiative that we have streamlined our vision and mission and we are implementing a very clear marketing strategy. The visible part of the strategy is the change of our logo into modern features and its protection all over the world. That has clearly enhanced the image of the organisation and displayed its dynamic character and capacity to adjust itself to the evolving world of innovation and creativity.

Is there any priority area that you would like to address in the near future?

Yes, there is. We would like to contribute in harnessing the innovation that is happening in Africa and turn it into valuable IP assets. One of the ways of doing so is engaging universities and research institutions and charting with them a clear vision on the use of IP to add value to their important work.

We are working with some partners, including the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), to develop model institutional IP policies that should provide clear guidance with regards to the use of IP by universities and research institutions, the establishment of internal institutional frameworks that will push further the IP agenda within those institutions, a more systematic IP awareness creation mechanism, incentives for researchers, students and academic people, and a clear approach with regards to the protection of their innovations and creative works.

A well-articulated institutional IP policy should become an efficient tool to empower universities when they negotiate their partnerships. It should generate earnings by facilitating the exploitation and commercialisation of the IP endeavours, and ultimately it should stimulate innovation and creativity from within.

One intriguing thing is that ARIPO’s headquarters is in Harare, and just across the Limpopo River is South Africa, which has staunchly refused, over 40 years, to join ARIPO. Why?


To be honest with you, I believe South Africa is one of the countries that will benefit a lot from joining ARIPO and ARIPO will benefit a lot from South Africa’s membership.

In 2006, ARIPO’s Administrative Council was convened in Cape Town with the idea of creating awareness in the country on the ARIPO system and sensitising policy makers on the benefits of ARIPO membership. ARIPO has also been invited several times by South African IP firms to demonstrate its operations with the view to facilitating its use. In fact South Africa is the biggest user of the ARIPO system although it is not a member yet. South African patent agents are the ones who drive the whole business that comes to ARIPO. It is therefore, my sincere hope that countries such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Seychelles, South Africa and others will consider joining ARIPO in the near future.

Are you saying non-members can use the ARIPO system?

Yes, non-members can use our system because they want to protect their rights within the ARIPO territory. For example, if an American inventor wants to protect his rights in the 19 member states of ARIPO, he uses the ARIPO system. When a South African inventor has any patent and wants to protect it in the 19 member states of ARIPO, he uses the ARIPO system. So the system is not devised exclusively for ARIPO nationals. However, the system creates full benefits for members as elaborated before.

What does the future look like for ARIPO?

We want to be a hub for empirical research studies to enable the organisation to develop evidence-based policies for the member states, rather than taking decisions based on perceptions and slogans. We also want to be a hub in terms of ICT infrastructure in the management of IP.

The ICT infrastructure that we have recently put in place will undoubtedly enhance the registration system by providing a rapid processing of applications, reduction in the pendency period, and transparency of the system. It will also create an adequate platform for the establishment of regional databases to administer industrial property, copyright, traditional knowledge and folklore, and plant variety protection.

We also want to be a hub for capacity building and awareness creation initiatives related to IP in our new state-of-the-art infrastructure and in the member states. Our Academy will be strengthened to expand its academic and professional development programmes, and the uptake of IP in research and development institutions as well as establish networks among IP stakeholders.

We will continue to engage our cooperating partners and development partners, including Regional Economic Communities in Africa, with a view to developing concrete programmes for the enhancement of the IP systems and to mobilising resources to implement those programmes.

Our main focus will be to promote innovation and creativity, use ICT to promote industrialisation and sustainable agricultural development, and intra-African trade by adding value to African products and services, as well as promote entrepreneurship by the effective use of IP tools. So I see ARIPO’s growth and enhanced role as fostering creativity and innovation for economic prosperity in Africa. It is a great responsibility that requires concerted and coordinated effort by all stakeholders.

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