In an interesting example of international co-operation designed to advance African IP, four separate bodies – the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuele (OAPI), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) – have joined forces in an African IP rights co-operation project known as AfrIPI. The inaugural meeting of AfrIPI was held on 7 September 2020.

A recent press release tells us the following:

  • AfrIPI is funded by the EU Commission and EUIPO.
  • A major goal of AfrIPI is to support the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the new pan-African free trade area.
  • AfrIPI will work towards strengthening national and regional IP institutions and enforcement systems.
  • AfrIPI will publicise and promote the benefits of IP to Africans. In the words of EUIPO Executive Director, Christian Archambeau: The reason why cooperation is so important is that IP rights are closely related to economic wellbeing – in particular sustainable development, the creation of quality jobs, and of balanced trading conditions. In a globalised economy, especially with the internet by-passing physical borders, it is essential that IP rights are understood in a common way and also protected.’

Moving on to specifics, the press release tells us that AfrIPI will:

  • Support the registration of Geographical Indications (GIs) in Africa and the EU. In particular support will be given to African GIs as they are beneficial to local communities. 
  • Support the development of IP guidelines for OAPI and ARIPO member states.
  • Train IP examiners on international frameworks such as The Hague Agreement.

Initiatives like this are to be welcomed. Not only do they have the effect of raising IP standards in Africa, but they also raise awareness of the importance of IP rights.