The 16th Cohort of the Masters in Intellectual Property was officially launched on the 17th of August 2023 at the Africa University campus in Mutare. The Masters in Intellectual Property program established in 2008 is jointly offered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and Africa University with support from the Government of Japan. Its objective is to create a critical mass of Intellectual Property Experts in Africa to underpin the continent’s broader development agenda by patenting, protecting and safeguarding African innovations and research.Speaking at the opening of the ceremony, Africa University Vice Chancellor Reverend Professor Peter Mageto took time to reflect on the long standing partnership between WIPO, ARIPO, Africa University and the Government of Japan which has yielded a number of outstanding alumni who serve in high level positions across the continent spearheading the crafting of national Intellectual Property policies in their home countries and giving African innovations room to compete globally with fair reward and recognition going to creators. “ Today we celebrate 16 years of partnership and impact with over 300 alumni spread across the continent representing over 21 African nationalities. On the 30th of April 2023, the partners extended support for the program into the next 5 years. I am humbled and grateful for this opportunity and we will continue to do the best for this continent. We reaffirm our commitment to fulfilling this mandate. We have welcomed 29 experts from 15 countries in this year’s cohort with special mention of Lesotho and South Africa who are represented in the class of 2023 after some time. Our alumni are manning Government departments and serving in the private sector with the former establishing Intellectual Property policies led by our alumni.”
The Minister of State of Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Manicaland, Honourable Matikenyeri represented by the Director of Economic Affairs, Mr. Munyaradzi Rubaya said, “It is through innovation that Africa can develop. We have the people and the resources, what we lack is value addition and this can only be done through research, innovation and protection of the outputs of innovation. Africa University compliments the Government of Zimbabwe’s efforts to develop the nation into a middle-income economy by 2030 and it shall therefore always be there to support the university in this journey.”
Ambassador of the Embassy of Japan in Zimbabwe His Excellency Satoshi Tanaka highlighted that Japan’s economic development was borne out of strong and robust IP structures that created an environment ripe for the rise of entrepreneurship and product development. He went on to speak to Japan’s legacy of support to Africa’s development agenda and goals. “In light of our experience, Japan established the WIPO Japan Funds- in- Trust in 1987 in order to support developing countries in improving their IP and in 2008, Japan also established a new Funds- in- Trust geared especially towards Africa. The purpose is to support the development of Human resources in the field of IP , and stimulate the growth of local industries in Africa through better use of IP systems. Utilising these funds, the Government of Japan has been providing financial support and scholarships for this MIP program.”
Ms. Martha Chikowore, Acting Head, Academic Institutions and Executive Programs, WIPO Academy, emphasised the importance of the program and strategic value of partnerships to provide relevant, purposeful programs that allow students to pursue career development while making a difference to the society and world. WIPO is a self- financing specialized Agency of the United Nations with 193-member states. WIPO is committed to supporting innovation and creativity for economic, social and cultural development of all countries. Aligned to this, WIPO also aims to transform IP education by focusing not only on legal aspects but also on business, trade, economic and financial aspects to expose more people to the field who look to translating their ideas into reality. She said, “ In WIPO, we believe in bringing IP closer to more people and making it part of their daily lives. WIPO will help more ideas from anywhere in the world get to market and this will continue to be WIPO’s focus as we transform from a technical- driven agency to an impact- driven agency.” Ms. Chikowore went on to outline the gains made by developing countries in advancing IP reporting that China filed 3.6 million patents with the Republic of Korea among those countries with the highest number of patents filed in force, competing with the United State of America and Japan who filed 3.6 million and 2 million patents respectively. A positive growth of 3.6% of patent filing has been recorded in Africa in the past 10 years.
Speaking on behalf of ARIPO, Head of the ARIPO Academy Dr. Outule Rapuleng said, “We add our voices to those of our partners who affirm their commitment to the continuation of this program ensuring that Africa’s critical IP needs are addressed. We hope to increase the number of scholarships for this program that we currently provide and to continue supplying resource persons for course delivery and instruction. We further pledge our facilities at our Headquarters in Harare for the practical training of students making them readily accessible. Our annual award for outstanding academic achievement and leadership shall also stand to motivate and recognise those enrolled in each cohort.”
The Masters in Intellectual Property is one of Africa University’s high-level flagship programmes among the likes of Child Rights and Childhood Studies, Public Health, Malaria Research and International Relations. The institution’s burgeoning centres of excellence are leaving a mark on the continent through research, innovation and development.