“In a world where natural resources are fast running out and can no longer support national economies, knowledge has become the diamond, gold and oil of the future,” this was said by Botswana’s Vice President Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe, on the eve of the Twelfth Session of the Council of Ministers of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in Gaborone last week.
Merafhe decried the fact that this precious asset unfortunately still has to receive due attention given its increasing impact on people’s daily lives.
On the part of Botswana it was, however, pointed out that recognition of intellectual property as an important tool for economic development and diversification, was reflected in the country’s Vision 2016, which envisages a productive, prosperous and innovative nation by 2016.
The establishment of the innovation hub in recent time is cited as one feature of this envisaged vision, and it is intended according the Vice President to spearhead creative and innovative projects by inviting companies that have the knowhow to set up in Botswana and develop home grown solutions.
In addition, it is increasingly becoming apparent, according to Merafhe, that with the growing realization of the hidden value of intellectual property, companies and business entities are inclined to managing and harmonizing their intellectual property assets.
He posited, “Evidence points to the fact that countries with weaker protection of intellectual property regimes provide almost no incentive to their people to create or innovate, nor do they attract new technological investment.”
Thus, the challenge for those countries is to strengthen their property systems to provide impetus for local creativity, innovation and cultural development. Other challenges identified include the need for observance of the principle of minimum intellectual property standards, and encompassing new technologies such as the internet.
Coupled with the fact that there are countries that still remain outside the ambit of any Intellectual Property organization, a range of other challenges presented by IP reportedly tend to make it a challenge governing the knowledge society, particularly on issues related to innovation, development and intellectual property.
So it was against that background, that the role of ARIPO was described as being crucial in transforming African countries into knowledge driven economies with sound protection of intellectual property rights. ARIPO was thus formed to harmonize and develop intellectual property activities affecting member states, as well as to pool resources in respect of intellectual property administration for the realization of optimal benefits by member states.
As an extra benefit to countries who are members of ARIPO, Joyce Banya, Counselor, Technical Assistance and Capacity Building for Africa of Bureau for Africa, pointed that, “Within the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) cooperation for Development Division, WIPO was working closely with ARIPO in undertaking a number of activities.”
The activities include development of intellectual property strategies tailored to respective development needs and priorities of member states. This was discussed extensively under the theme “Trends in developing national IP strategies”, which also encased the issue of strengthening of the legal and institutional and human capacities of member states to use IP as a tool for economic, social and cultural development through training workshops.
In the same vein, the organization has so far developed a protocol and it’s implementing regulations on the protection of traditional knowledge and expressions of folklore, which member states are still to append their signatures on once all the relevant processes have been exhausted.
This follows the twelfth session of the Council of Ministers of ARIPO, which took place last week at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) in Gaborone.
Some of the issues discussed by the Council include the implementation of the mandate on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore, development of the regional framework on access to benefit sharing (ABS) and Plant Varieties Protection as well as proposals for strengthening of synergies between ARIPO and its member states.
The proceedings of the Council meeting were directed by Botswana’s former revered Finance Chief and now, Minister of Trade and Industry Baledzi Gaolatlhe.