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22 May 2019

Africa: The Hot Ticket for Technology

With a moderator from South Africa and panelists from Kenya, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, the RW01 Regional Update: Protecting Technology in Africa (Wednesday, 10:15 am - 11:30 am) will evaluate how companies can protect technology across the continent.

Of interest to trademark practitioners and technology-based businesses looking to branch out in Africa, the panel will focus on “understanding what the leading and up-and-coming technologies are, how they can be protected, and the extent to which this intellectual property (IP) can be effectively enforced” in different African countries, says Simonne Christina Moodie, Partner at Von Seidels (South Africa), who will moderate the panel.

In addition, speakers will explore how technology differs in how it is used by people in Africa compared to those in the Western world, she says.

Lorna Gathigia Mbatia, Partner at CFL Advocates (Kenya), will focus on East Africa and the unique IP rights protection and enforcement issues in the area.

She notes that a major enforcement issue in the region relates to the involvement of customs officials in IP protection. “Although the East African countries recognize and appreciate that the role of customs officials goes beyond collection of taxes, many do not have formal proceedings for customs official involvement in IP protection and as such, involvement of customs officials is usually reactive,” she says.

"Far from the ‘Africa Rising’ theme of old, [this session will offer] a new view that suggests that not being in Africa is now a material risk for tech clients." Nancy Samuriwo

Nancy Samuriwo, Partner, Intellectual and Commercial Law at Samuriwo Attorneys (Zimbabwe), will provide an “all-Africa” perspective, discussing the nuances inherent in the two regional trademark registration systems in Africa, which are provided through the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI).

“While IP clients the world over experience challenges in various jurisdictions, the main difference with this session is its special and authentic focus on Africa and its inspiring proposition of Africa,” she says. “Far from the ‘Africa Rising’ theme of old, [this session will offer] a new view that suggests that not being in Africa is now a material risk for tech clients.”

Ms. Samuriwo will explain why proprietors need to have an Africa-specific strategy for trademark protection, technology-based IP, the common challenges IP practitioners are likely to face, and how to overcome them.

One of these challenges is the lack of investment in local counsel, according to Ms. Samuriwo.

She adds: “African IP systems are complex, and there are several legal, cultural, linguistic, jurisdictional, and sometimes political issues that can arise from the implementation of an IP strategy in Africa. It is advisable for technology-based clients to invest in reputable local expertise in African jurisdictions for these clients to be best placed to navigate around potential pitfalls.”

Okey Onyekanma, Founder and Managing Partner of Okey IP (Nigeria), will provide an overview of financial technology (FinTech) in West Africa focusing on Ghana, Nigeria, and the larger West African economies, and protecting and enforcing FinTech in West Africa.

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