It has been about 2 years now the word has been going round that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) plans to establish an External Office in Nigeria. Last week, what had been going around came around when WIPO and Nigeria signed the Host Country Agreement (HCA) establishing a WIPO External Office in Nigeria. Ambassador Audu Kadiri, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office and other Geneva-based international organizations confirmed the development. Mr Kadiri signed the agreement on behalf of Nigeria, while Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General, signed on behalf of WIPO.
This is a welcomed development. Considering that Nigeria is Africa’s biggest population and economy, plus having the largest creative industry in Africa, having WIPO External Office in the country is a big plus for Nigeria and Africa generally.
NIgeria has a lot to benefit from having WIPO’s External Office in the country. I focus on three major benefits.
First, Nigeria’s creative industry–especially the entertainment sector–is expected to boost its use of IP as a tool for growth and expansion. With WIPO in Nigeria, local authors and innovators have been practically extended a helping hand. The reason is not far fetch. The Federal Government (FG) in collaboration with WIPO will work towards harnessing the potentials of intellectual property (IP) in Nigeria and Africa at large towards boosting its policy on diversification of the economy from oil wealth to other sectors such as the entertainment industry. This will greatly benefit economic growth and development, thus raising the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Second, with WIPO External Office in Nigeria, the level of IP expertise in Nigeria and Africa at large will improve significantly, considering WIPO’s robust and globally recognized IP resource and training programs.
Third, IP awareness in Nigeria and Africa will receive a big boost. This is because WIPO is the powerhouse of excellent IP awareness programs in various communities across the world. In a country like Nigeria with over 180 million people that largely have poor awareness or knowledge about IP, having WIPO in Nigeria will facilitate more efficient and effective IP-awareness outreach activities, initiatives, and projects in the county. IP practitioners, IP associations, IP societies, IP rights (IPR) owners, and stakeholders must rally round WIPO to ensure Nigeria and other African countries maximize the enriching opportunities that WIPO has got in its kitty.
With the three major benefits above, the hope is that stakeholders such as the FG, IPR owners, IP practitioners, and the public who consume IP would work together to avoid the situation wherein WIPO’s newly established presence in Nigeria is underutilized. All hands must be on deck to ensure it really counts.
IP is the new oil in today’s intangible-asset driven knowledge economy. Nigeria can no longer afford to continue relying on oil with all the political issues that often surround it. Nigeria needs to decentralize, exploiting the knowledge economy to expand opportunities provided by the new oil. With IP, unlike oil or other natural resources, anyone can generate ideas, invest in them, and commercialize their ideas, creating wealth and increasing job opportunities. With IP-powered diversification of the economy, everyone—artist, authors, inventors, innovators, etc—can have a bite of the national cake (IP). From copyright to trademark; industrial design to patent, we will be turning ideas to real wealth.
Nigeria needs to exploit all aspects of IP to benefit its people. Copyright, industrial designs, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and even geographical indications and traditional knowledge should be maximized This will help the country open up new markets, creating more job opportunities for the youth, boosting the economy, and putting Nigeria on the global innovation map.
In 2017, WIPO approved the establishment of the Nigerian and Algerian External Offices in Africa. Brazil, China, Japan, Russia, Similar External Offices have been established in Brazil, China, Japan, Russia and Singapore.
From all of us at Infusion Lawyers, we say HAPPY NEW YEAR in advance!
Written by Rita Chindah, ACIArb