UN official calls for Africa’s intellectual property rights protection

The Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Ms. Vera Songwe calls on Africa leaders for the protection of Africa’s intellectual property rights.

She made the remark on Sunday addressing the 38th SADC heads of states summit in Windhoek, Namibia.

Speaking on the theme of the summit, “Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”, she highlighted the need for countries to look within for resources to finance infrastructural development; including improving tax performance and tackling the flow of illicit financial flows.

For the second consecutive year, the number of patent and industrial design applications received by the
Africa Regional Intellectual Property Rights Organization (ARIPO) Office continued to decrease, according to ARIPO annual report for 2016.

“However the year witnessed a modest increase in trademark and utility models applications. By end of 2016, the total number of applications the office had received for each industrial property category were as follows: 697 patents, 29 utility models, 83 industrial designs and 297 trademarks (corresponding to 487 classes). In the corresponding period in 2015, the applications received were: 780 patents, 124 industrial designs, 21 utility models and 283 trademarks.

“In comparison with the same period of 2015, 2016 patent and industrial design applications registered decreases of – 12% and – 49.4% respectively, while utility model and trademark applications increased by 4.7% and 27.6% respectively,” the report stated.

ARIPO currently has 19 States which are party to the Lusaka Agreement and therefore members of ARIPO. These are: Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

On the contrary, the global IP registration trend for 2015 shows record numbers of applications in 2015, with the Chinese office receiving 1, 010 406 new patent applications – a number that has never been reached by any IP Office in a single year. The United States of America and Japan with 526 296 and 454 285 respectively being the major contributors to global total of 2 888 800 new patent applications filed in 2015.

Ms. Vera also urged governments to address the prohibitive cost of protecting intellectual property on the continent, which will help promote innovations especially among the youth.

“The 4th industrial revolution can be a powerful gender equalizing took in Africa, I plead with our leaders to protect intellectual property rights of its youth and of its girls in particular, she said.

Present at the Summit were representatives from all SADC states and the Chairperson of the African Union, among others.

According to the organizers, this year’s theme builds on the focus of the past four SADC Summits that sought to advance industrial development. Key to the discussions is the need for an integrated infrastructure network as an important enabler of industrialization and market integration.

The Summit will also review the implementation of the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063. The SADC industrialization strategy, adopted in April 2015, seeks to achieve major economic and technological transformation at national and regional levels to accelerate economic growth through industrial development.