Intellectual Property: How to enable more African youths to benefit from their creations

Photo credit: ARIPO

By Bemanya Twebaze, ARIPO Director General

The 2022 World Intellectual Property (IP) Day theme is “IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future”. This theme resonates well with the scenario in Africa, which has the youngest and fastest-growing population globally.

Africa is home to over 1.2 billion people, and youths below the age of 25 make up 60 percent of the population. Our young people are an incredible source of creativity and ingenuity. Positive change cannot be driven on the continent without them.  

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) believes that the fundamental aspects of IP need to be introduced to the youth at an early age. This will enable them understand its generation, protection, and commercialisation.  

For this reason, ARIPO undertakes initiatives in its Member States to promote innovation, IP protection, and commercialisation among the youth. The following are some of the activities:

Hosting students for educational visits

ARIPO hosts students, mostly from tertiary institutions, who visit the Secretariat to learn about its operations and how to protect intellectual property. 

Promoting the development and use of institutional IP policies

Academic and research institutions host many youths who are innovative and creative. In these institutions, where close to 90 percent of knowledge and IP are created and disseminated, the institutions must be aware of the IP system and its importance for innovation and creativity. 

To promote the generation and exploitation of IP by owners, ARIPO encourages the development and use of institutional IP policies. The Organisation does this by conducting IP awareness seminars for academic and research institutions in its Member States.

Further, in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), ARIPO has developed guidelines for creating institutional IP policies for universities and research organisations. These initiatives will help enhance IP awareness and protection among students, mainly the youth.

Masters in Intellectual Property

ARIPO has partnered with universities in its Member States to jointly offer a master’s programme in intellectual property. The objective is to create a human resource pool in IP for Africa as a continent. Specifically, the Organisation is collaborating with Africa University in Zimbabwe, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where young people are enrolling to study for a master’s degree in intellectual property. ARIPO offers scholarships to some of the students to allow them to undertake their studies in IP.

A tracer study undertaken to assess the impact and effectiveness of the master’s programme revealed that the young graduates have remained relevant to the IP system in their countries. Some have been instrumental in reviewing IP legal frameworks, teaching IP in educational institutions, conducting IP awareness, and managing IP units in universities and research institutions. This contributes to building the needed capacity in IP development.

The way forward

ARIPO is planning to develop a Model IP Curriculum for universities and colleges. The aim is to assist these institutions in introducing IP teaching to all students. This will help to ensure that every student who graduates from the institutions is aware of the IP system and its benefits to IP owners and generators.

In the past, ARIPO has also engaged the youth through initiatives such as copyright competitions and the production of songs, building awareness on trademark counterfeiting and piracy, in collaboration with WIPO and the Japan Patent Office. The success of these events led to the ARIPO Member States considering and adopting the proposal to promote IP awareness and build respect in the Member States' schools in 2019.

Based on the foregoing, in 2022, ARIPO commenced the implementation of the Pilot Project on the “Establishment of IP Clubs in Secondary Schools” in Botswana, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, with a view to eventually cover all the Member States.

The Organisation is cognizant that the future is characterised by a high youth population, the convergence of IP norms, and opportunities and challenges posed by the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. These technologies – big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, augmented reality, cloud computing, and autonomous robots, embraced mainly by the youth – will reshape norms, rules, and standards, particularly at the interface of IP and industry. As the 4IR develops and evolves, ARIPO will be at the forefront of putting together a shared approach to these issues regionally and globally. 

The youth are Africa’s most valuable human capital resource and constitute its engine of growth. To that end, by supporting the youth in protecting their innovation and creativity, we will create and foster a culture of innovation and creativity that will drive economic growth in Africa. 

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