Innovation, Intellectual Property and Development Narratives in Africa

Human development, including not just economic growth but also the capability for longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives, depends on innovation and creativity. While various economic, technological, social and other factors influence innovative and creative activity, intellectual property (IP) rights – copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and other appropriation mechanisms – play an increasingly important role. How IP rights help or hinder innovation and creativity in different contexts in Africa is the subject of this book.

This chapter canvasses aspects of the current reality of IP in the four main regions of the African continent. The evidence it summarizes helps to build an understanding of the ways in which the dual goals of protecting IP and preserving access to knowledge can be balanced. This chapter also gives an explanation of the broader rationale and methodological choices of Open AIR’s research, which provides indications of the roles that are being, and can be, played by collaborative and openness-oriented dynamics in relation to innovation, creativity and IP. A better understanding of the nuances and dynamics of IP is essential to creating policy frameworks and management practices that balance IP protection and access in such a way that African regions, nations and communities can harness IP as a tool to facilitate collaborative networking within diverse systems of innovation and creativity.


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de Beer, Jeremy and Oguamanam, Chidi and Schonwetter, Tobias, Innovation, Intellectual Property and Development Narratives in Africa (2014). J. de Beer, C. Oguamanam & T. Schonwetter, “Innovation, Intellectual Property and Development Narratives in Africa” in J. de Beer et al, eds, The Collaborative Dynamics of Innovation and Intellectual Property in Africa (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2014), p. 1-31.

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