Africa University (Zimbabwe) 15th Cohort of the Masters in Intellectual Property (MIP) programme launched as the strategic importance of IP to Africa’s sustained development grows

Africa University together with partners WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), The Government of Japan and ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization) launched the 15th cohort of the Masters in Intellectual Property Programme with students from 14 African countries drawn from the legal, civil engineering, education, business and development sectors. The 15th Cohort marks a turning point in the MIP programme hosted by Africa University, with a critical mass of 370 IP professionals having been trained in the landmark programme to date.

Vice Chancellor Reverend Professor Mageto in his remarks to the 15th cohort, challenged the class to rethink Africa’s position globally and its contribution to the knowledge-based economy.

Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Mageto

Africa University is proud to have developed this programme jointly with ARIPO, WIPO and the Government of Japan. With the assistance of our partners, the programme will continue to redefine itself to meet Africa’s future IP demands. I implore all of you to gain the necessary knowledge and develop the critical skills needed. Africa needs you to be innovative in providing sustainable home-grown solutions to the challenges that we face. The WIPO-published Global Innovation Index 2021 (GII2021) indicates that there is no African country ranked amongst the top 50 innovative economies in the world. To accelerate the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area and boost Africa’s trading position in an innovation-driven, cyber-physical world, we must have effective IP regimes supported by a strong Intellectual Property talent base.

Presenting remarks on behalf of WIPO, Counsellor Martha Chikowore provided background to the increase of IP globally and the sustained importance of scholarships that make the field more accessible to more professionals.

WIPO Counsellor Mrs. Martha Chikowore

The tremendous increase in IP applications (patents, trademarks and industrial designs), as witnessed at WIPO in recent years, reflects the growing importance of IP, innovation and new technologies in the global economy…In this respect, the importance of this joint master’s programme cannot be ignored. The demand for this programme is increasing and with it the demand for scholarships. Our gratitude goes to the Government of Japan who provided 12 scholarships while WIPO is sponsoring 10 candidates in this year’s programme.

Mrs. Chikowore went on to highlight WIPO’s contributions to the recovery of small businesses worldwide with support given to targeted projects empowering them to enhance IP for business growth to ride the wave of economic recovery post COVID-19. The organization has also partnered with Harvard Law School to jointly offer courses on Patent Law and Global Public Health also known as Patent X, which shall be rolled out in all joint Master’s programmes including the Africa University MIP programme by experts trained and certified by Harvard University. Enhancing student access and success outcomes, the WIPO Academy has also established the WIPO Network for Intellectual Property Education (WINIPE), aimed at enhancing IP teaching and research thereby fortifying their commitment and support to students and partners like Africa University, by creating robust systems that improve the education experience.

ARIPO Director General Mr. Bemanya Twebaze from Uganda emphasized the importance of IP in the African context positioning the discipline as the key to unlocking the true potential of the continent.

ARIPO Director General Mr. Bemanya Twebaze

ARIPO is indeed pleased with all partners namely the World Intellectual Property Organization and Africa University towards ensuring that the critical needs of IP teaching as well as human resources development in the field of intellectual property are addressed. It is undoubtedly one laudable way of ensuring that Africa is equipped with IP knowledge and well placed to create a conducive environment and develop strategies necessary for its people to create, exploit and commercialize intellectual property assets, which are themselves important tools for social, economic, and technological development. In a world where economies are knowledge-based, it has become apparent that tangible assets alone are not enough to propel national economies forward. An important ingredient in economic development is hinged on intellectual property and its management. Africa, therefore, requires enhanced knowledge of intellectual property and its deliverables to ensure that the continent draws maximum benefit from its own innovation and creative capacity.

The Guest of Honor and Keynote speaker of the launch was Tinodiwa Zambe Makoni who is a trailblazer in the digital arts industry  in Zimbabwe founding the country’s first Digital Art and Innovation Festival- Comexposed, and is the creator of the nation’s first comic book, The Gift/Gundog. Mr. Makoni went into his humble beginnings as a creative in the African space.

Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker Mr. Tinodiwa Zambe Makoni

I began my journey in creativity quite some time ago and over the years, I have experienced both the joys and hardships of pioneering in Africa. The environment is unforgiving especially to new ideas or unproven endeavors but it also holds more promise than anywhere else I have been to in the world.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Animation from a university in Australia, Mr. Makoni told of the difficulty of returning to Zimbabwe where his chosen field was still in its infancy, with few employment prospects and even fewer clients to sell his work to. Pushed by the necessity to build the industry, Tinodiwa ventured into entrepreneurship creating a creative studio and publishing company that told stories of the continent through the visual arts. He soon realized the importance of IP in ensuring such stories continue to be told.

I interacted with artists whose common fear was, “What if someone steals my idea?” These concerns often lead to a paralysis of the creative. They stop imaging and stop creating for fear of loosing their ideas. This same fear replicates itself across many industries in Africa. There are many examples of African ingenuity gaining commercial value in the world with little recognition if any attributed to the originators.

Speaking to the 15th MIP cohort, Tinodiwa reminded the class of 2022 that Africa needs them and their skills, to be mindful of the creativity that is flourishing in every corner of the continent, and to build the future from the rich heritage that comes from the diversity found in Africa.

The joint Africa University/ARIPO/WIPO MIP programme was first launched in 2008 through the university’s Institute of Peace Leadership and Governance. The intense and highly competitive programme brings together the best minds from across the continent with the aim of creating a critical mass of trained IP experts for the continent. The 18-month programme is divided into the first phase which is delivered online, the second residential phase where students travel to Africa University for rigorous and in- depth practical and research based learning with IP experts from Africa and the world, with the third and final phase being the independent research based dissertation.