Transforming African Economies through Innovation and Education in IP – in celebration of Africa Day 2024

News and Views


in celebration of Africa Day 2024 

25 May 2024 marked Africa Day, in celebration of the 61st anniversary of the African Union (AU), an organisation guided by the vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”[1]  

Aptly, Africa Day 2024 revolved around the theme: “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century”, exploring how education can be used as a key driver for socio-economic transformation and innovation in Africa, equipping the next generation with the tools they require to better understand and navigate our intricate and ever-evolving digital world.[2]  

Incidentally, transforming African economies by fostering creativity and innovation goes hand-in-hand with providing education and access to information on sustainable growth practices, such as the importance of protecting the intellectual property of African creatives and innovators [3] and understanding how intellectual property law can be used as a catalyst for job creation and economic development.[4] 

For individuals and professionals in related private sectors, this may call for our time, skills or resources to support educational community initiatives and present opportunities that allow students to gain real-world experience across various job markets [5], including within Africa’s legal, tech and creative industries, which promise significant growth potential.[6]  

Such initiatives could spark innovations like that of South African startup, Lelapa AI, who believe in “using African talent and resources to build distinctly African solutions for African problems”.[7] They created Vulavula, a digital product that provides real-time translation and transcription services in English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and Sesotho (with other official South African and Sub-Saharan languages in the pipeline), enabling businesses to easily communicate with customers in their own language.[8] With innovations like this expanding across the continent and beyond, it is no surprise that African creative industries are leveraging their technologies and platforms for creative production, distribution and marketing, with a view to extending their reach and impact globally.[9] 

As this potentially exposes innovators to unauthorised use of their intellectual property, it is important that they protect their rights effectively in Africa and abroad, particularly in regions where business is conducted or where commercial interests are prevalent.[10] Accordingly, where innovators are proactive in collaborating with legal experts to better understand the respective IP frameworks in Africa (and abroad) and engage the services of these experts to protect their innovations by means of the most appropriate or suitable IP mechanism (in line with their particular needs and circumstances), businesses across Africa can make their contribution to bringing the AU’s vision to fruition.   

Consequently, where we are able to gauge a keen interest from our future innovators and young legal professionals, it will allow us to facilitate meaningful change and innovation within growing industry sectors, backed by a strong sense of critical thinking, new insights, academic research and legal education in IP across the continent. Collectively, this may very well be the step that propels economic transformation, transcending certain limited expectations surrounding developing nations, leading to creative solutions to unique problems, advancing Africa one remarkable innovation at a time.  

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Nicolette Naidoo

Trade Mark Department

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