Intellectual property is an idea aimed at protecting and encouraging creativity and innovation in order to stimulate progress and economic development. In Africa, according to Karl Elvis Nsumbu
By Christine Cayré
Karl Elvis Nsumbu Mba is 26 years old. He is first and foremost a researcher and an activist who advocates sustainable development and ecology. After having studied law and marketing, he became interested in intellectual property in 2008, when he attended the first national week on intellectual property in Libreville, Gabon, which was organised by the Centre for Intellectual Property of Gabon (CEPIG). This subject became one of his key passions.
In order to add further strings to his bow, he obtained a diploma in intellectual property from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva and has since devoted a large proportion of his time to this subject by taking part in various seminars as both an activist and a specialist in copyright and related rights.
Karl Elvis Nsumbu Mba believes that intellectual property is one of the key pillars of development in Africa and that the protection of inventions and innovation on the Continent should be more systematic. In an economy where ideas are becoming more and more important, innovation creates value, and the patent is a key element at the heart of this system as it allows ideas and their originality to become a source of wealth.
According to Karl Elvis Nsumbu Mba, intellectual property nevertheless remains a concept that is still too vague in Africa, one which is too far-removed from reality and real needs. He laments the lack of collective management organisations for copyright and related rights, plus the lack of intellectual property experts in the majority of African countries.
[callout title=Intellectual Property Organisation – key points]
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a specialist institution that has existed since 1974 within the United Nations and has 184 member countries.
According to the WIPO, its mission is to “develop an international intellectual property system which rewards creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development while safeguarding the public interest”.
The WIPO opened an African office on 13 September 1962, the same date as the signature in Libreville, Gabon, of an agreement establishing the African and Malagasy Industrial Property Office (OAMPI). This agreement was revised in Bangui, in the Central African Republic, on 2March 1977, giving rise to the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI).On 24 February 1999, the Bangui Agreement was again modified.
One of the aims in this case was to expand the work of the OAPI, whose chief role was to promote the development of the member states, most notably through the effective protection of intellectual property and related rights, and to provide education on intellectual property.
In this new version of the agreement, protection was extended to cover new objects, such as plant varieties, geographical indications and even literary and artistic works. The new agreement came into force on 28 February 2002. The OAPI currently has 15 member countries.
“I think that a lot of people still have the wrong idea of what intellectual property is all about. It is as though this idea has nothing to do with them and remains somewhat esoteric,” he says. In his view, the WIPO is not fulfilling its mission correctly. “Intellectual property is now inevitable”, he insists. “It has to be promoted in a dynamic and interactive way.”
And the researcher goes on to explain his training projects in leading colleges, higher education establishments and universities. He is even considering a televised programme in partnership with the national public TV station. His objective is to remove the air of mystery around the subject and bring awareness to his countrymen since, in his view, a country’s emergence and development are intrinsically linked with the protection of the rights of its authors, inventors and creators.The protection of intellectual property should become a source of income while at the same time encouraging the creation of jobs.The young man is however saddened by the lack of funds available at a time when, in his opinion, Africa cannot afford to ignore this vital subject.
“The issues here are legal as well as economic, but it’s also about preserving cultural heritage,” he adds.“I am thinking here about this young girl, a student of modern literature, who I have strongly advised to protect the texts and pieces that she creates. From now on, she won’t be able to be plagiarised without consequences.”
In the world of artistic creation and beyond this example, it is a matter of classifying a country’s works, recognising and organising its treasures and promoting its cultural identity. “There is a huge disparity between the African countries”, bemoans Karl Elvis Nsumbu Mba. “Some of them, such as Burkina Faso, are making progress and the FESPACO (Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou) clearly illustrates this. The FESPACO promotes audiovisual creativity in Africa and is a model example of the economic development of African culture. However this has only been made possible because the structures for protecting intellectual property are already in place. In Gabon, we are just starting to do the groundwork but there is still a long way to go when it comes to the notion of intellectual property”.
By taking part in eLearning Africa, Karl Elvis Nsumbu Mba is also keen to create links between intellectual property and Information and Communication Technologies. He will chiefly speak of the need to gain control of a tool such as the Internet which will, on the positive side, allow the promotion of works, but on the negative side, also allow their unauthorised use.