Equitable access to medicines and vaccines are key determinants of a country’s resilience to emerging health threats. As the world tries to figure out how to live alongside the SARS-CoV2 virus with the constant threats of emerging variants and new waves, several challenges remain globally for the supply of and access to medicines. For example, the AIDS drugs access crisis, which highlighted the challenges in accessing lifesaving medicines and vaccines. People all over the world are affected by the crisis which is a result of either unavailability or unaffordability.
The African Society of International Law (AfSIL) held its 9th Annual Conference on Africa and COVID-19 virtually, on 30 October 2020. AfSIL aims inter alia to promote international law on the continent and to contribute to the development of an international law that expresses the point of view of African States and specialists. The Conference was sponsored by law firms Foley Hoag LLP, Shikana Law Group and Asafo & Co.
In the webinar, the panelists brilliantly discussed salient subjects pertinent to global intellectual property (IP) rights rules and relevant implementation mechanisms at regional and national levels. In quintessential Afronomicslaw.org fashion, the discussions underscored Global South interests and reinforced the importance of fostering development-oriented IP systems.
The optional subjects being offered at SAU also have considerable number of readings that focus on South Asia. They also include the works of South Asian scholars and Third World scholars. All the optional courses offered at SAU address international issues of relevance to South Asia, in varying degrees. Discussions on general topics include special reference to South Asia in most of the courses. Thus, the LL.M. course at SAU is heralding in a South Asian approach to IL.
Traditional medicines have an equally important role as vaccines, therapeutics and medical devices protected through classical IPRs such as patents. For this reason, it is important to include traditional medicines within the scope of IPR protection, including within the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement. Doing so would go beyond the classical debate of protecting medicines, vaccines and therapeutics mainly through patents as currently understood within the TRIPS Agreement.
In addition to BITs and IP laws, the Nigerian government can rely on the international law principle of necessity to justify taking measures such as compulsory licencing, yet the successful use of this principle depends on satisfying various conditions. Meanwhile, applicability of the customary doctrine of police powers to the claims arising under BITs has been accepted. This means that ISDS tribunals should thus attach normative propriety to state regulation in an epidemic.
In the grander scheme of things, amidst the crisis of climate change in which the vulnerability of Africa continues to unravel, Africa remains a preferred choice of FDI in agriculture for the export of green energy and for food. This situation raises concerns about displacements, conflicts, shrinking traditional landraces and continental food security writ large. The traction for agricultural FDI comes through the scheme of large scale agricultural land acquisitions, which activists framed as agricultural “land grabs”.