Posted by Serge NtamackIntellectual Property, Microsoft West, East, Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
“Behind every great innovation, either artistic or technological, is a human story – a tale in which new pathways open as a result of the curiosity, insight or determination of individuals.” - The World Intellectual Property Organization
You may have read about the remarkable story of a young Malawian boy, William Kamkwamba, who built a windmill using scraps to power his family’s electrical appliances. The invention made him famous, representing the sort of solution so needed in rural Africa - simple and cheap, yet with the potential to make a huge difference to living standards. It could have been spread throughout the region, if not for a lack of investment.
And sadly, that lack of investment was largely related to the risk of intellectual property infringement so high throughout Africa. The risk of Kamkwamba’s idea being copied by his neighbours, or any other party, was just too high in an area where IP rights are not protected.
This story struck a chord in me because I believe that in Africa, often our inventors, artists and musicians face challenges that are typically much greater than those faced in the first world – and so their curiosity and determination needs to be that much more strong. In many cases, the hard work they put into their works is not justly rewarded – to no fault of their own, but rather, merely because of their context.
Intellectual property is something we typically hear about in the context of large companies, having become increasingly significant in the ‘knowledge economy’ of today. This year’s World IP Day, which took place yesterday to celebrate ‘visionary innovators,’ reminds us that it is also important to think about the value of intellectual property rights to individuals - to the artists, musicians, and great thinkers of Africa.
These are the people whose curiosity, determination, and insight have the potential to transform the continent, and whose talents play an important societal role in the expression of ideas and cultural wealth.
And they deserve recognition and reward for the role they play.