African Innovation Research on Intellectual Property's Role in Open Development

Appropriate intellectual property (IP) rights policies could foster creativity and innovation, thereby promoting globally competitive African industries and services. Evidence suggests, however, that it is not only IP policies and laws (copyright, patents, trademarks) that limit Africa's contribution to innovation, but also their interpretation and use. The IP discourse is now polarized between those who advocate strong IP protection to enable investment, and those who maintain that these strong regimes fail to address development imperatives and reinforce the interests of dominant countries and firms. Furthermore, the measurement of innovation and knowledge production is based on such criteria as number of registered patents and peer-reviewed publications. These measurements have been challenged because of their developed-economy assumptions.

In this project, researchers will analyze under what conditions copyright, patents and trademarks limit innovators' access to and production of knowledge-intensive products and services. They will do so through several case studies. The case studies will focus on the energy sector, creative industries and agriculture in several African countries. The project will foster capacity building on the part of African IP researchers, uptake of the research results by policymakers, and peer networking with researchers in Asia and Latin America. A network of African researchers will be coordinated by the Intellectual Property Law and Policy Research Unit, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Sub-nodes of collaborating researchers will be located in Northern Africa (Egypt), West and Central Africa (Ghana or Nigeria) and East Africa (Kenya).

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, November 15, 2010

End Date

Saturday, November 15, 2014


36 months

IDRC Officer

Perini, Fernando

Total funding

CA$ 2,043,600


Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, North of Sahara, South of Sahara


Networked Economies

Project Leader

Nan Warner

Project Leader

Dr. Tobias Schonwetter


University of Cape Town

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website