There is often a limited and constricted view of African innovation, especially when it comes to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). While there is the common perception that refugees on the continent are resilient, innovative, and resourceful, it is only in the sense that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Too often, refugees and IDPs are perceived as persons with only needs. The reality is that refugees and IDPs are just like everyone else and bring many skills, ideas, and innovations to the global marketplace, both the marketplace of ideas and of goods.
Over the past few years, Kenya’s innovation scene has come to the limelight, resulting in some naming the country as the technology hub of Africa. Some of the factors that have led to this acclaim are the growing number of shared working spaces, young technology enthusiasts, incubators where developers are mentored and trained, and a craze for mobile application development. The Open AIR team in Kenya – comprised of Dr. Isaac Rutenberg, Victor Nzomo, Louisa Matu-Mureithi and myself – is conducting research on mobile innovation in Kenya. As a researcher on the team, I am helping to conduct research, interviews, and analysis on the case study entitled “Open Collaborative Models of Mobile Tech Innovation in Kenya.”
Earlier this year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) held a two-day workshop on “Supporting Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Use the Intellectual Property System in Their Competitive Strategy” at the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Cairo, Egypt, which some of our Open AIR NERG members attended. The goal of this meeting was to discuss how to encourage young innovators to protect their inventions by patenting them at the Egyptian Patent Office. The workshop had vibrant and sometimes heated discussions between these innovators and government officials regarding many of the obstacles faced in the patenting process in Egypt.
On 10 June 2015, the Agreement establishing a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) was signed in Egypt bringing together 26 African countries from three major regional blocs: the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Following the signing, the current phase of the TFTA negotiations are meant to cover five agenda items: trade in services, cooperation in trade and development, competition policy, intellectual property (IP) rights, and cross-border investment. The fourth of those five issues was the subject of the second Open AIR East Africa Distinguished Speaker Series presentation by Dr. Henry Kibet Mutai.
Enthusiasts and researchers gathered on Friday, March 3, 2017 to share research on the growing African maker movement. The workshop was hosted at the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa.
The WIPO-IGC recently commenced the next installment of its deliberations for a text-based instrument that focuses on the protection of traditional cultural expressions (TCEs), pursuant to its mandate. There are two scheduled forums on TCEs beginning Feb 27-March 3 and to be completed in June 2017, which will round off the Committee’s work for the 2016-17 biennium.
In part 1, I discussed our preliminary findings from 73 field interviews conducted by my team and I in the Otigba Market Cluster. Since then we have conducted an additional 123 interviews, making a total of 200 interviews in all. In this second post, I will discuss more on the kind of innovations in the cluster, how MSMEs in the cluster scale-up, and the impact of knowledge sharing on MSMEs’ innovativeness.
This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting Open AIR’s latest working paper, A Framework for Assessing Technology Hubs in Africa, which will soon be published in the New York University Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law. This is the first paper to offer a framework for systematically describing and assessing the emergence of high technology hubs throughout Africa.
Funded by the Open AIR network, my case study is about skills development and innovation at Ghana’s Suame Magazine Industrial Cluster. The research I am conducting seeks to understand the processes and systems that contribute to how knowledge is or is not shared and how skills are acquired in one of West Africa’s largest informal sector industrial clusters, Suame Magazine. How skills are learned and what is communicated between those in the industrial cluster will help us to learn how innovations are shared and taught among these informal businesses.
On 10 December 2016, as part of the RiseUp Summit in Cairo, Open AIR’s North Africa hub hosted their first Distinguished Speaker event with Ibrahim Al-Safadi, the CEO of Luminous Education. The Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) invited Al-Safadi to speak about the role of “makerspaces” to tackle unemployment and to share his experiences in how to create a makerspace that ensures that the individuals involved end up with jobs.
In 2012, a civil society group called the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), raised concerns about a draft Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) plant variety protection protocol. AFSA was concerned,
The Summit was part of a series of events that took place in Egypt in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Week. A2K4D’s Senior Research Officer, Nagham El Houssamy, participated in the summit, speaking on the Data-Driven Innovation Panel on Friday, November 18.
Is intellectual property (IP) gender neutral? No. Neither is the dominant discourse on innovation. Recognizing this bias is the first step toward remedying it.
So what is the Otigba Computer Village? Oyelaran-Oyeyinka in 2006 described it as the biggest ICT hub of West Africa – perhaps the biggest ICT market in all of Africa – because of the size and the volume of business activities carried out on a daily basis within the cluster. The research I have been conducting looks at the knowledge dynamics at play in the informal ICT businesses in the cluster, with a view to understanding how these dynamics drive informal enterprises’ innovation and scaling-up. While other studies of the cluster have evaluated the size and capacity of the cluster, the evolution of the cluster, mode of operation, performance, sustainability and constraints, there are no studies looking at how the local businesses identify new and useful knowledge. With over 5000 businesses in the cluster, there is bound to be knowledge exchange either through spillover or conscious transfer. How is this happening?
In mid August, Open AIR hosted a roundtable discussion on makerspaces and innovation hubs in Africa. I found it really fascinating to take part in the discussion, which featured a number of uOttawa entrepreneurship and engineering professors, Open AIR researchers, visiting professors, and staff from IDRC. The presentations and follow-up conversations were thought provoking and the room had a great mix of diverse ideas.