Saturday, December 5, 2009

Opening of the Twelfth Session of the Council of Ministers of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation by H.H.Lt.General M. S. Merafhe

source: Republic of Botswana (2/12/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 28 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery


[Salutations]…Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is a great honour and pleasure for me to address you at this occasion marking the official opening of the Twelfth Session of the Council of Ministers of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization. On behalf of the Government of Botswana, and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to thank ARIPO for having given us an opportunity to host this meeting.

2. It is my sincere hope that the logistics and the facilities at your disposal will enable you to have a successful meeting. I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Dr Francis Gurry, for finding time to attend this meeting. This gesture is indeed a reflection of the commitment your organisation attaches to the development of intellectual property.

3. I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, the Honourable Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs of the Kingdom of Lesotho, Mrs. Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa for her able leadership during her tenure in office. Furthermore, I wish to extend a warm welcome to all of you: members of the Council of Ministers of ARIPO, dignitaries and invited guests. I hope that you will find your stay in Gaborone both productive and enjoyable.

4. Director of Ceremonies, it is important to remember that, as Africans, we have a lot in common and that working as a team is critical to our ultimate success. ARIPO was formed to harmonise and develop intellectual property activities affecting member states, as well as to pool resources in respect of intellectual property administration for the realisation of optimal benefits by member states. Therefore, it provides a platform on which we can harness all the benefits of teamwork.

5. In a world where natural resources are fast being depleted and can no longer support national economies, knowledge has become the diamond, gold and oil of the future. In that regard, ARIPO is an important organisation as it has the potential to transform our countries into knowledge-driven economies with sound protection of intellectual property rights. No one can deny the importance of intellectual property and its impact on everyday life.

6. Unfortunately, this valuable asset has not always commanded nearly as much attention as it should. With the growing realisation of the hidden value of intellectual property, companies and business entities are increasingly managing and harmonizing their intellectual property assets.

7. Evidence points to the fact that countries with weaker protection of intellectual property regimes provide almost no incentive to their people to create or innovate, nor do they attract new technological investment. The challenge for those countries is to strengthen their intellectual property systems to provide impetus for local creativity, innovation and cultural development.

8. Director of Ceremonies, Botswana recognizes intellectual property as an important tool for economic development and diversification. This recognition is encapsulated in our national vision, Vision 2016, which envisages Botswana as a Productive Prosperous and Innovative nation by 2016. To ensure that this vision is attained, Botswana has over the years reviewed its laws and built capacity in the field of intellectual property.

9. Botswana has also established an Innovation Hub which is intended to spearhead creative and innovative projects by inviting companies that have the know-how to set up in our country and develop home-grown solutions. The world now faces a range of challenges in governing the knowledge society, particularly on issues related to innovation, development and intellectual property. Challenges that have been identified include the principle of minimum intellectual property standards, and new technologies such as the Internet. I urge you to use this meeting to apply your minds to these challenges and come up with workable solutions that will give ARIPO extra bounce.

10. Director of Ceremonies, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Director General of ARIPO for the assistance that Botswana continues to receive from his office. ARIPO has assisted Botswana in building capacity by training officers in the Ministry of Trade and Industry on patent and trademarks issues. Furthermore, ARIPO continues to provide Botswana with expertise in conducting substantive examination on patent applications filed in Botswana either nationally or through the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Harare Protocol. The rate of filing for patent protection is still minimal in Botswana and without ARIPO’s assistance, it would have been very expensive and unattractive for us to conduct the examinations.

11. Director of Ceremonies, allow me, once again, to highlight some of the significant achievements made by ARIPO to date. ARIPO has so far developed a Protocol and its Implementing Regulations on the protection of traditional knowledge and expressions of folklore.

12. This Protocol has been placed on your agenda for consideration and approval. The Protocol has come at an opportune time, as it will address the current exploitation of traditional knowledge, expressions of folklore and associated genetic resources without equitable sharing of benefits.

13. The protection of traditional knowledge is at the heart of Botswana’s community development. Our aim is to offer adequate protection to communities to curb exploitation of traditional knowledge where benefits are not accruing to communities. A Bill proposing an amendment to the Industrial Property Act 1996 to include traditional knowledge and handicrafts is scheduled for presentation to our Parliament during its current meeting. This Bill is an achievement in terms of the development of intellectual property in Botswana as it has introduced new areas which are intended to enhance our country’s competitiveness.

14. Yet, another milestone achievement for ARIPO is the establishment of the ARIPO Regional Training Centre that was inaugurated in 2006. The Masters Degree Programme in Intellectual Property that has been jointly launched by WIPO, ARIPO and the Africa University is also an important milestone in the history of the Organization. I am informed that several officers from member states of ARIPO, including Botswana, are currently undergoing training for this master’s degree.

15. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, on another note, I learn that not all countries have signed for membership of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization. I would like to take this opportunity to earnestly appeal to all those States that are not yet party to the Organization to come into the fold.

16. In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that the Government of Botswana is committed to the development of intellectual property system at all levels and look forward to fruitful deliberations and successful outcomes of this meeting. It is now my honour and privilege to declare this Twelfth Session of the Council of Ministers of the Regional Intellectual Property officially opened. I thank you.

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