Justice Otieno Odek, is a Judge of the Appeal Court and Director of the Judiciary Training Institute (JTI) of the Republic of Kenya. He is also a Professor of Law. In this paper presented at the annual Founder’s Day Lecture of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, NIALS, University of Lagos campus, he examined the legal issues in intellectual property in the context of developing countries and quest for national innovation system. Excerpts:
RECOGNITION andprotection of intellectual property (IP) is a recent phenomenon in developing countries-especially in sub-Saharan Africa. As a concept, IP is misunder-stood by a majority of the populace in developing countries and distressingly, also misinterpreted by the educated elite and political leadership.
Many a time, one would hear the elite and political class misconstruing the terms patent, copyright and trademark as if these words were synonymous and interchangeable.
A disquieting feature is the failure by the middle class, educated elite and leadership in most developing countries to appreciate the seminal role of intellectual property fostering socio-economic development of a country.
Intellectual property rights system
Forlornly, promoting, nurturing and unlocking the potential of intellectual property is not a priority to most of the countries. To unlock the potential of IP in socio-economic development of a country, one has to comprehend the concepts of ideation, creativity and innovation and underscore the pivotal role of the national innovation system to creation of a knowledge based economy.
Role of National Innovation System in Creating Intellectual; Property Rights. (IPRs). A country that does not understand and recognize its national innovation system is like an individual who has HIV-AIDS virus without knowing that he is unwell–such a person shall surely die without understanding the cause of death.
An innovation system is not synonymous to the intellectual property rights system. The intellectual property regime of a country is not the national innovation system. The IPR regime is a subset or component of the national innovation system and not vice versa. Enacting IPR laws per se does not lead to creativity and innovation. The IPR laws are on a piece of paper – a piece of paper de facto or de jure cannot innovate – it is people who create and innovate – the sine qua non for innovation is manifestation of a conducive environment and presence of a creative and innovative human resource capabilities of a country. Meaning of national innovation system • A national innovation system is that structure that encourages and leads people to be creative and innovative. Leaders must recognize that creativity and innovation are evolutionary processes.
Role of Government in strategic use of Intellectual Property to Promote Innovation
A people have innate creativity and innovative potential that must be harnessed – it is the duty of the government to extract and harness the potential). Sustained development and diffusion of innovation and new technologies does not happen automatically without human intervention. Innovation has to be nurtured and encouraged and innovators rewarded for their novel ideas. Without incentives and rewards, researchers would have little motivation to carry on producing better and efficient products for consumers. To this end, national governments have a role to play to establish effective national innovation systems. The strength of a system of innovation is directly related to the institutional foundation of science, technology and innovation.
Where there is disconnect and lack of collaboration between the system of science and the innovation system, governmental intervention is justifiable.
Recommendations to Improve Developing Country Innovative Capacity
To enhance innovative capacity, a developing country needs to among others:
• Put in place a national creativity and innovation strategy.
• Raise the country’s skill levels and enhance opportunities for innovation. • Put in place an innovation fund to support businesses raise their innovation potential.
• Establish a national skills academy in every sector of the economy.
• Develop higher level skills strategy to provide an overall framework for driving up innovation in business.
• Device and implement a train to gain and apprenticeship programs.
• Establish a Skills Council to identify national skills gap which inhibit innovation
• Promote High Performance working Practices to increase value added in business.
• Come up with a strategy for technology transfer and diffusion.
• Establish a National Innovation Index to measure innovative performance of the country.
• Broaden knowledge transfer between research institutions and business.
• Establish a Public Service Innovation Laboratory. The laboratory will try new methods for uncovering, stimulating, incubating and evaluating the most radical and compelling innovations in public services.
• Identify innovative places. Innovation does not take place everywhere; it tends to cluster in particular locations and thus innovation clusters should be identified.
• A centralized innovation promotion and coordination agency should be established.
• A cabinet innovation hub should be established to generate high level political commitment and to drive political will for innovation.
• At the national level, innovation policies should more explicitly favour international collaboration and diffusion of knowledge across borders. New international governance structures should also aim to increase technology diffusion to and among developing countries. The rationale for this is realization that innovation no longer occurs in silos, today it crosses borders and relies on collaboration between various entities to create a win-win prospect.
Progressive Steps in Nigeria to Promote Creativity and Innovation
In November 2016, The Nigeria Innovation Summit was held. This is an annual event that focuses on the need for the country, businesses, organizations, entrepreneurs in Nigeria to become more innovative and apply innovation to drive sustainable development. The Summit helps Nigeria embrace innovation and move in the direction of digital transformation through the use of Emerging Technologies and Trends, Research, Development, Commercialization, Entrepreneurship and Investments as the key drivers of an innovation ecosystem. This is a platform that creates awareness on the need for Open Innovation in Nigeria. It challenges Nigeria to leverage Innovation and become more competitive in the global economy. The summit, through the Nigeria Innovation Awards promotes leading innovations from Nigeria and recognizes innovators who are pacesetters.
Innovation compliant nation
During the Summit, it was observed that there is urgent need for Nigeria to invest in innovation, research and technology development, in order to become an innovation-compliant nation and hence, improve in the Global Innovation Index ranking, attract foreign investments and boost the economy.
The Nigerian Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is key to promoting innovation in the country. Learned societies include ones for ecology, engineering, entomology, fisheries, forestry, genetics, geography, medicine, microbiology, nutrition, and veterinary medicine.
The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology has 25 attached research institutes that focus on cereals, cocoa, lake ecology, horticulture, forestry, livestock, root crops, veterinary medicine, oceanography and marine sciences, oil palms, rubber, and tropical agriculture, among other areas. Examples of Notable Innovations from other Sub-Saharan African Countries.
African innovation is not yet getting the level of global recognition and support it truly deserves. The continent is brimming with a rising new generation of bold, creative-thinking innovators and entrepreneurs who are constantly inventing and developing new technologies that will simplify our daily lives and transform societies- technologies with global appeal and commercial viability in any part of the world.
Below is a sample of notable innovations from Africa. 1. MPESA and USHAHIDI – Country of Origin: Kenya: • A paradigm shift is underway in Kenya. New innovations are destroying old ways of doing business, and smart young start-up entrepreneurs are at the forefront of this quiet but historic transformation.
Teams of skilled developers and programmers have sprung up in innovation hubs, incubators and accelerators across the country to build information and telecom solutions that capitalize on the country’s mix of challenges and opportunities.
At the same time, we have seen a number of spinoffs of Kenya’s unique entrepreneurial revolution reach across Africa and into other corners of the world, attracting global recognition for the country. Examples of Kenyan IT innovations are M-Pesa and Ushahid. M-Pesa, a money-transferring app, capitalized on the fact that only 5 percent of the Kenyan population had access to bank accounts and created a solution that revolutionized citizens’ financial freedom.
The post-election violence of 2007–2008 also brought some unexpected innovation when a small group consisting of concerned tech entrepreneurs began to collect eyewitness reports of violence from emails and text messages and upload them to Google Maps, giving rise to Ushahidi -Swahili for “testimony” or “witness”- a ground breaking information-gathering, visualization and interactive mapping tool that is now used around the globe and was recently deployed during the U.S. elections.
Ushahidi, along with M-Pesa, changed the minds of even the doubters that it was possible for innovation to stimulate world-class entrepreneurialism in Kenya. 2. MUBSER – Country Of Origin: Egypt Mubser is a breakthrough navigational aid tool designed for visuallyimpaired people. It is a wearable belt with a Bluetooth-connected headset that guides blind people to move and navigate around common obstacles such as walls, chairs and staircases in a safe and easy way.
Mubser recognizes these obstacles by leveraging on RGB imaging and infrared depth data captured by a 3D depth camera and quickly notifies the user through an inbuilt audio device and vibration motor.
Mubser was developed by Khaled Shady, a 22 year-old Egyptian student and a group of computer engineering students at Menoufia University, Egypt. 3. Cardiopad – Country of Origin: Cameroon The Cardiopad is a touch screen medical tablet that enables heart examinations such as the electrocardiogram (ECG) to be performed at remote, rural locations while the results of the test are transferred wirelessly to specialists who can interpret them. The device spares African patients living in remote areas the trouble of having to travel to urban centers to seek medical examinations.
The Cardiopad was invented by Arthur Zang, a 26 year-old Cameroonian. 4. Jumia – Nigeria An e-commerce start-up inspired by Amazon, Jumia launched in Lagos, Nigeria in 2012. Lagos is an upcoming tech hub on the continent, with a large urban center and youthful population.
On Jumia, people can purchase anything from electronics to clothes to home goods. The company has a 90,000 square foot warehouse in Lagos, and also has an office in Egypt. Jumia delivers to Morocco, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, and most recently, Uganda.
In 2013, the company won an award for Best New Retail Launch, after it was given $35 million in Series B funding from Millicom.