African ministers, experts discuss ways to foster innovation, intellectual property - Though many African countries have taken serious steps to embrace, anchor and nurture Intellectual Property (IP), they are still challenged by the dearth of experts and institutional capacity to develop effective policies and laws to protect their original creative work, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said here Tuesday.
“Use of intellectual property can contribute immensely to socio-economic development and eradication of poverty in our nations,” Kikwete said at the opening of a two-day African Conference on the Strategic Importance of Intellectual Property Policies to Foster Innovation, Value Creation and Competitiveness.
Noting that the level of commitment by African countries to embrace IP policies was increasing, the president appealed for support from the international community to enable these countries build their capacity to formulate and implement IP policies and measures.
He suggested that assistance should go beyond IP policies and embrace other related matters and sectors in order to integrate IP policies with development policies.
Over 20 African ministers responsible for IP-related matters and for science and technology have joined representatives of the private sector and research institutions to deliberate on how the continent could capture the value of the continent’s abundant resources of innovation and creativity to promote development and economic growth.
Innovation was no longer just a buzz word, but part of sound economic policies to promote economic growth, development and job creation, said Alberic Kacou, the UN Resident Coordinator for Tanzania.
“Today, any discussion of innovation must include intellectual property because Intellectual Property captures the value of innovation and converts ideas into tradable assets,” Kacou told the meeting.
In the Tanzanian context, the UN official said IP is especially relevant to the growth of small and medium enterprises as it is the backbone of industries.
Since growth of SMEs depended on market stability and competitiveness, Kacou added, “This can be achieved if and when SMEs use effectively intellectual property.”
On his part, Bruno Jean Richard Itoua, chair of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology, said that among development challenges facing the continent was promotion of creativity at the level of youths who account for the biggest part of the population.
“We need to create a certain mechanism that will translate our commitment to science and technology at local and state levels through entrepreneurship. IP and entrepreneurship should feed each other,” said Itoua, who hails from the Republic of Congo.
Meanwhile, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry said “intellectual property is an indispensable mechanism for translating knowledge into commercial assets.”
“Africa has a great tradition of innovation and creativity,” Gurry told the conference participants, adding that “intellectual property is an indispensable mechanism for translating knowledge into commercial assets. IP rights create a secure environment for investment in innovation and provide a legal framework for trading in intellectual assets.”
Pledging WIPO’s commitment in assisting countries to develop national innovation strategies, Gurry said that investment in knowledge creation, and the maintenance of a robust and balanced IP system, should feature prominently in any strategy to ensure sustainable economic growth.
Toshihiro Kose, Director General of Japan’s Trademark, Design and Administrative Affairs Department of the Ministry of Economy, said his country was fully committed to supporting the development of Africa’s IP systems through its Funds-in-trust for Africa and LDCs Programme that is managed by WIPO.
WIPO, a UN specialised agency for the promotion of intellectual property as a force for innovation and creativity, assists 185 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society’s evolving needs.