Welcome to the first Afronomicslaw.org Indaba. Indaba is a Zulu and Xhosa word that refers to a meeting to discuss a serious topic – it also refers to a discussion on a matter of concern or for discussion. This occasional series will discuss issues relating to international economic law relating to Africa, the developing world and the Global South.
Intellectual Property Rights
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised salient questions about global intellectual property rights rules and their implementation at regional, sub-regional and national levels. These questions revolve around the tensions between private rights and the public interest. For example, how can governments employ flexibilities and other measures to facilitate access to pharmaceutical products including drugs, vaccines, test kits, personal protective equipment and related technologies? Or how can governments navigate the intersections of copyright and the right to education to promote access to educational materials for teaching and learning? Broader conceptual, practical, and institutional issues, foregrounded on fostering development-oriented intellectual property rights systems in the Global South, will be analysed from different perspectives.
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.
governments need to ensure that the interventionary measures they seek to implement must be tempered with and evaluated against the special needs and dynamics of their countries. The fragility of our economies, the growing debt levels, the development challenges they pose, and the social and economic vulnerability of a significant segment of our populations ought to be important considerations in developing response and containment measures against Covid-19.
On 22 April, the President of Madagascar Andry Rajoelina, launched what he called a cure for coronavirus, Covid Organics (CVO). The announcement drew interest from a few African countries and to date countries like Tanzania, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia and Senegal have already received shipment of CVO. While some have been sceptical about the remedy, others have praised it as an example of traditional medicine, reigniting a discussion around traditional medicine and intellectual property rights.
Digitalisation is changing the way we understand IEL. New streams of revenue generation resulting from online or digital economic activities remains untapped and unapplied towards steering economic growth. Despite the fact that these new digital models have been met with novel regulatory and tax approaches globally, they are proving problematic in terms of identifying the activity upon which tax should be based. This is because traditional tax rules do not contemplate digital aspects as sources of taxable income. The role of IEL in the digitalisation of the economy therefore, merits consideration, specifically in the area of domestic resource mobilisation as a factor for economic growth especially in Africa.
A new economic wisdom seems to be informing the development agenda of international economic institutions, including the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO). The argument is that, although global value chains (GVCs) have existed for a long time, the pace and intensity of global interactions is rapidly changing, consisting of ever more functional ‘fractionalization’ and geographical ‘dispersion’ of production, and so is the nature of trade, with the unprecedented increase in the exchange of components and tasks originating in different parts of the world.
Finally, we have seen a surge in climate activism, especially from children and young adults, especially after Greta Thunberg launched the Fridays for Future (FFF) Movement in August 2018. FFF is a global movement that seeks to ‘put moral pressure on policymakers, to make them listen to the scientists, and then to take forceful action to limit global warming.’
While the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations (NOTN) 2017 Nigerian Annual Trade Policy Report (NAPTOR) was an excellent step in the right direction, it is not enough. As such, in the spirit of the legal reform proposals that the CLRNN inaugural conference demanded, I urge the Nigeria government to develop and adopt a coherent and robust regional trade policy that will be updated from time to time to reflect the realities of the day.
Afronomicslaw.org, the blog on International Economic Law Issues as they relate to the Global South is pleased to invite essay submissions on International Economic Law topics relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic.