Mr Samuel Tembenu, Malawi’s Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, has called on African countries to build capacity to generate intellectual property with the view of bridging the innovation gap between their respective countries.
He said African countries needed to focus on building and strengthening their capacities to innovate and generate Intellectual Property (IP) so as to be able to compete in the knowledge economy.
Mr Tembenu said this at the launch of a two-year Master of Science in Intellectual Property (MIP) programme by the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in collaboration with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
The programme is being jointly organized by ARIPO and KNUST with support from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Ten students from various ARIPO member countries have already been granted scholarships to pursue the programme.
Mr Tembenu, who is also the Chairman of Council of Ministers of ARIPO, said most African countries inherited IP regimes introduced by their colonial masters.
These IP regimes were, however, not motivated by the imperative to induce creativity and innovation as a tool for development in African countries but rather, to guarantee the protection in the colonial markets of IP regimes generated in colonial master’s home countries.
When African countries became independent, not only did they adopt IP regimes of colonial masters but also a regime for which they lacked the capacity to administer.
Mr Tembenu said the failure of IP regimes in Africa to induce discernible creativity and innovation is related to the lack of strong innovation systems or capacity to generate intellectual property.
He said ARIPO recognized the need to create a mass of people who understood the subject of IP and who would lead in building the capacities in their countries to innovate and generate intellectual property.
The Minister said it is imperative that researchers, scientists and engineers are grounded in the subject of IP regimes to be able to generate innovations and intellectual property that would lead economic transformation of their countries.
Mr Fernando dos Santos, Director-General of ARIPO, said the MIP programme in the KNUST is the second that has been launched in Africa, after that of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
He said ARIPO was providing scholarships to students and lecturers for the programme to ensure its success.
Mr dos Santos said ARIPO is committed to provide a critical mass of IP professionals to facilitate the socio-economic development of not only ARIPO member countries, but Africa as a whole.
He praised Mr Sylvanus Tettey-Tamakloe, Ghana’s former ambassador to Zimbabwe, for the special role he played in bringing the programme to KNUST and thanked the university authorities for accepting to host the course.
Ms Jemima Mamaa Oware, the Registrar General, said IP education and dissemination was high on the agenda of the National Intellectual Property reforms and it is envisaged that it would be taught from kindergarten to the tertiary levels.
Professor Kwasi Obiri Danso, Vice Chancellor of KNUST, said Ghana needed professionals in the IP sector to deal with the numerous challenges in the area.