The bricks-and-mortar economy is being replaced with one of ideas in which intellectual property has become a major currency. In the new global economy, wealth is generated through creating and harnessing the value of knowledge and this requires special protection, as Adebambo Adewopo, Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies explains...
Throughout the history of human civilisation, both material and intangible assets have formed the constituent of wealth. Today, however, knowledge forms the greater part of the new wealth. Consequently, intellectual property (IP) rights, the result of the industry of innovation, now play a leading role in the development of most regions of the world. Europe and North America have fully comprehended the dynamics of intellectual property and are inexorably driving developments in the international arena.
The recognition of proprietary rights in intangibles in many African communities is not entirely new. In Nigeria for example, earlier rights are vested in groups such as families, clans, age or sex group, cults, professional guilds, or individuals such as particular elders, chiefs or kings. The enforcement of these rights was based on magical or religious beliefs, or punishments administered by the groups. In present day Africa, one of the policies of development adopted by the African Union under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development is the establishment and strengthening of a common market for Africa. Since the common market is about the removal of barriers to the free movement of goods and services, then intellectual property laws clearly play a key role.
The existing platforms for IP administration in the African region revolve around two major regional bodies: the African Intellectual Property Organisation (or OAPI in French, standing for l'Organisation Africaine de la Propriété intellectuelle) and the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (ARIPO). ARIPO was established following the request of English-speaking African countries for assistance in pooling resources together toward creating a regional body responsible for industrial property in order to avoid duplication of financial and human resources. It presently has a membership of 16 nations including Botswana, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.