Southern Times Writer
Harare - Many African CEOs, government ministers and non-governmental organisations have been calling African youths and citizens to present innovative ideas to resolve African problems.
Innovation is no doubt one of the key factors for economic growth. However, from all these calls, citizens have been worried about the protection of their ideas as nothing has been mentioned in terms of property rights protection within these calls which can now discourage these good ideas from coming out.
“I have presented about six different ideas on many platforms, including the green solution calls by NGOs, but I have never received a response either positive or negative or any communication that a certain colleague won a grant. I am beginning to question the authenticity of these calls,” stated Daphne Hungwa, a mechanical engineering student who participated in a call for energy innovations in Zimbabwe.
“I decided that I should try to get property rights protection, but I am afraid that it is costly, and I am not sure where to start,” said Angeline Mapungwana, a biochemist engineer.
The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) aims to facilitate cooperation among African 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.
The organisation strives to facilitate the protection of intellectual property rights for African citizens to promote industrial and technological innovations. However, the organisation requires certain fees to be paid to facilitate the protection process which can become a challenge for our fellow African students and citizens.
“ARIPO fees include application fees which are up to US$290, examination fees maintenance fees and other fees, which can be viewed on their website and these are all in US dollars. Nonetheless, the question is who can afford these fees? Can our fellow brothers and sisters with great ideas afford to go through this process? This is something that our development partners and governments should seriously look at if they want to promote innovation.
“Our fellow African intellects have made pitches at different platforms and these ideas have been stolen from them by those who can. Governments should be cognisant that ideas don’t come from rich people or people in the city alone, they can come from anyone even a learned man or a woman living in the rural area can come up with a great idea, hence it is important to improve access to property rights protection and capacity building of citizens in the area,” said Ruvimbo Sambo, a property rights protection activist.
The economic case for secure property rights is that growth depends on investment. However, investors do not invest if there is a risk of government or private expropriation. According to a working paper by Technet titled Intellectual Property Rights and Economic Development, (Intellectual Property Rights) IPRs protection is becoming increasingly relevant to policymakers in developing economies. “Protection of IPRs influences how knowledge is created and diffused within and between economies. Besides the legal standards of protection, the foregoing discussion identified many other variables that determine the economic impact and net benefit of a particular IPRs regime: countries’ endowments with factors and technologies, other business regulations, the efficiency of the judicial system, macroeconomic stability, and so on.
“Developing countries can enhance the benefits of TRIPS-motivated reforms by building national consensus on the desirability of IPRs protection and establishing efficient and credible institutions for administering and enforcing IPRs. Of particular importance is the adoption of a pro-competitive approach to IPRs, which requires close interaction between IPRs regulations and anti-trust rules.
“Assistance from industrialized countries and multilateral organizations in implementing these reforms can make a difference not only in accelerating the process, but also in paving the way for innovative approaches to IPRs protection in the developing world”, concluded the paper.