Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) enforcement in Africa holds the power to influence the extent to which foreign and local entities and individuals will register IPRs within and across African borders. Therefore, the book entitled Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in Africa (Oxford University Press, 2020), is a timely publication which provides key insights pertaining to IPRs enforcement.
While WIPO’s technical assistance programme has been seen as less biased than much of the bilateral assistance on offer from the EU and the US, the history that Africa has with WIPO concerning cooperation in the provision of IP technical assistance can be said to have led to the introduction of Western-style IP norms across the continent. Our leaders and negotiators, therefore, need to proceed with caution in negotiating the AfCFTA IP protocol and the kind of technical assistance they receive. They must consult broadly and court the services of African scholars and experts on the matter.
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.
This article will briefly examine this dynamic across three interconnected dimensions: (1) flexibility and innovation in IEL agreement models, with a focus on trade agreements, that better integrate economic and social development goals and allow parties to adapt to new circumstances or phase in commitments on a more incremental basis; (2) flexibility in implementation of trade disciplines and agreements; and (3) legal and regulatory innovation that can both define and flow from IEL agreements. These three dimensions take into account both treaties themselves and how they relate to changes in law and regulation in practice, drawing a link between international agreements and their operation that is particularly important in times of change or uncertainty. In assessing dimension three, legal and regulatory innovation, which has been a focus of my work over the past decade,
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.
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.’
The shortcomings of the current legal and policy framework does not mean that responses to COVID19 should be lacking. Instead, there is adequate room for responses as we learn lessons and take notes to do better. The best way to move policy and law is to ensure that it is constantly reviewed to make sure they serve their purpose.
To the extent that measures taken to combat Covid-19 intersect with existing trade and investment obligations for countries in the global south, and reveals the embedded tensions, we wonder whether regional governance can or should serve as a framework to create equitable and just South-South cooperation, especially in times of crises. Regional and sub-regional organisations, if operationalised effectively, have the capabilities to pool together the financial, human, and intellectual resources that will be needed to identify interventions and responses to measures that threaten the foundations of solidarity, self-reliance and equality underpinning South-South relations.