During a plenary discussion with other general counsel, the
topic of emerging markets and specifically Africa came up.
Smith noted that IP protection requires "a healthy rule of law"
and "a healthy legal profession" and gave the example of Kenya,
which has only about 8,000 lawyers in total. As Smith
commented, you would probably find as many lawyers in one block
on Park Avenue, Manhattan. "I think there’s a
limit to what you can accomplish in a country of 40 million
people if you only have 8,000 lawyers," he said.
in the audience, I tweeted something sarcastic along the lines
of "Just what Africa needs to develop – more lawyers!"
That prompted a response from Justin
Watts of Freshfields (who was also in the room), drawing my
attention to the Africa Justice
Foundation and commenting: "Africa needs IP lawyers to
incentivise, create and bring in its own tech/creative
Since then, I have had more discussions about IP in Africa
with Brenda Kahari, who is leading
INTA’s Africa Rising Initiative, and with
Dario Tanziani and Darren Olivier who spoke at our International
Patent Forum last month. I was also pleased to be able to
interview the new
ARIPO Director General Fernando Dos Santos (right) at the
INTA Annual Meeting last week. This has probably been predicted
wrongly before, but it does look like there is real and growing
interest in investing in and protecting IP in Africa.
Unfortunately the lack of legal infrastructure (including
the difficulty in procuring and enforcing IP rights) is still a
deterrent to many IP-owning companies. And this is where the
Africa Justice Foundation comes in. Justin put me in touch with
his Freshfields colleague, Jonathan Kewley, who is a Board
member. He explained how the Foundation helps to build legal
capacity through legal scholarships and mentoring.
It started its work in
Rwanda, where among other things it is helping to create the
first database of case law in the country. Partly thanks to its
improved legal infrastructure, the World Bank named Rwanda the
most reforming economy in the world in 2010. Other target
countries include Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi and
Nigeria. Jonathan says the aim is to make doing business easier
and more certain: "Any lawyer knows that having a contract that
is not clear only makes your job harder."
He also emphasised that economic development and legal
development go hand-in-hand. So perhaps I was a bit too quick
to be cynical about Brad Smith’s views at Fordham.
We all have a part to play in helping facilitate
Africa’s development. Yes, even lawyers.
You can find out much more about what you can do to help
legal development in Africa on the Africa Justice
Foundation website (pictured above).