Editorial - It's time for Africa

It’s time for Africa 

This special issue of the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice focuses on intellectual property rights in Africa. It is high time to do so. Not only because Africa, which is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world and a rising middle-class, is ‘the next big thing’, but also, because a large part of the effective readership of the Journal is in Africa. As a matter of fact, as a mission-led university press publisher, OUP is committed to ensuring that non-profit research institutions in developing nations have access to critical research (http://www.oxfordjournals.org.ergo.glam.ac.uk/resource/image/devco_english_web.pdf). As such, the Journal is accessible free of charge or at a heavily-reduced rate in most African countries and a large fraction of the readers of our Journal are in Africa. It is also to them that we dedicate this special edition, which we hope will spark further debate on the importance of intellectual property right protection in Africa.
The ‘hot IP topics’ are slightly different in Africa than in the rest of the world, and this is of course reflected in this special issue: Africans are proud of their traditions and cultural heritage and this is why the protection of traditional knowledge transcends many aspects of intellectual property right protection, as is explained by Harriet Deacon in ‘Transboundary cooperation and regional cooperation in the protection of traditional knowledge in Kenya’ and Lee-Ann Tong in ‘Aligning the South African intellectual property system with traditional knowledge protection’.
Feeding the exponentially growing African population with quality food products is an ongoing concern and so is the coexistence of plant variety rights and African farming, as outlined by Susan Isiko Štrba in ‘Legal and institutional considerations for plant variety protection and food security in African development agendas: what solutions from WIPO?’.
Fostering innovation is key for African economies, which are undergoing major transformations, as is reflected in the article ‘Do patents and utility model certificates encourage innovation in Kenya?’ by Isaac M. Rutenberg and Jacquelene Mwangi.
In Africa, like in the rest of the world, whenever reforms are undertaken there is a risk of things going wrong, as described by Marcus Riby-Smith in his contribution ‘South African copyright law - the good, the bad and the Copyright Amendment Bill’.
The conflict between adwords and brands exists not only in Europe as shown by Likonelo Magagula and Sophie Lees in ‘A comparative analysis of the approach to advertising keywords in South African and English trade mark law’.
Counterfeit and pirated goods flood into Africa, like no other continent: fake vaccines, medicines, condoms, food products, and power tools threaten the health and safety of the African consumer and it is paramount that right-holders fight this plague. However, in some cases intellectual property right enforcement can have surprising side-effects, as described by Aurelia J. Schultz in ‘Africa's been raided enough: Collateral damage to intellectual property systems and alternatives to obtain value’.
There was huge enthusiasm on the side of the authors to participate in this special issue and we sincerely hope that the readers are as enthusiastic as we were when putting this issue together.

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