By Samuel Ugwumba*
In the recently concluded ‘African Ministerial Conference: Intellectual Property for an Emerging Africa’ organized in part by WIPO (here), one cannot help but think that all roads leading to creativity and innovation are paved with intellectual property (IP) laws and institutions. Put differently, the level of creativity and innovation in a society is dependent solely on how we tinker with and enforce IP laws. This ‘IP parochialism’, as I call it, is manifest in the conference program (here). Of course, the response would be that the conference was solely about IP and as such there was no need to look beyond IP. This is an erroneous view.
The leitmotif uniting the thematic linkages of the conference is: creativity and innovation for economic, social, and cultural development. But creativity and innovation is about governance. And governance is neither market-centric nor government-centered. In fact, governance requires and involves the multiplicity of institutional mechanisms (market or government etc.) and norms (equity or efficiency etc.) in addressing issues common to stakeholders. IP is only one institution, a market-centric model, for governing creativity and innovation and should be understood as such. In my view, the conference organizers should have included at least a section dealing with the roles of other institutions in facilitating creativity and innovation.