Science, Technology & Innovation and Intellectual Property: Leveraging Openness for Sustainable Development in Africa

Author: Caroline B Ncube

2020 was an eventful year for the whole world, as a public health and economic crisis raged, bringing to the fore the perennial challenge of how to craft and use Intellectual Property (IP) institutions, law, policies and practices, collectively ‘IP frameworks’ to add to efforts to achieve sustainable development, and to consider recovery paths for economies. This coincided with intensified efforts to boost intra-African trade and enhance regional integration through the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which has been ratified at the fastest rate, to date, of any African Union (AU) instrument. The US entered into negotiations for a bilateral FTA with Kenya, which, if successful, would be the first in Southern Africa and the first since the coming into force of the AfCFTA Agreement.

This book engages with this challenge in its six chapters.

  • Chapter One includes a brief overview of the AU, its member states, its institutions and legal norms to emphasise both the context and the diversity of the continent. It introduces and links STI and IP within a knowledge governance context as the analytical lens through which the book’s further discussions are framed. The international and African development agendas are also explained and distinguished from each other to foreground the following chapters.
  • Chapter Two considers the global IP framework with an account of minimum standards in international agreements.
  • Chapter Three turns to the African continent and provides a commentary on national and regional IP frameworks, as contrasted with the global framework. It considers plurilateral and bilateral agreements including the possibilities and significance of the US-Kenya FTA. It reprises the IP instruments of the regional IP organisations and the Regional Economic Communities.
  • Chapter Four considers STI and sustainable development, paying specific attention to the creation of an enabling environment for STI and also to how STI policies interface with IP.
  • Chapter Five reiterates the trade and sustainable development context of IP as the foundation to a consideration of examples of how openness is being leveraged to meet current developmental challenges through STI on the continent. It spotlights some entries at the COVID-19 Innovation Challenge held during the Africa Innovation and Investment Forum 2020 together with the continent’s commitment to Open Science.
  • Against the background of the preceding chapters, Chapter Six discusses the continental IP institutional reform and policy rejuvenation that would come from the operationalisation of PAIPO and the conclusion of the AfCFTA IP Protocol. It concludes with some policy legislative implications for IP and STI at continental level, that ought to be borne in mind as states calibrate their IP frameworks.