Between 2004 and 2007, the stage was set for Open AIR by several pioneering African initiatives. These projects focused primarily on copyright issues, with particular emphasis on the relationships amongst copyright law, education, publishing, and access to knowledge (A2K). Such projects included:
- the Access to Learning Materials in Southern Africa Project (A2LMSA)
- the Commons-Sense Project: Towards an African Digital Information Commons
- the launch of Creative Commons South Africa (CC South Africa)
- the drafting in Johannesburg of the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) Document for Commonwealth Countries on Copyright Matters in Education
- founding of the African Access to Knowledge Alliance (AAKA)
- the Africa Copyright Forum conference in Kampala
- establishment of The African Commons Project (TACP)
- adoption of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration
This series of events and decisions made clear the need for a dedicated research network to investigate the intellectual property (IP) dynamics on the continent. In 2007, Open AIR’s precursor network, African Copyright and Access to Knowledge (ACA2K), was formally established, with generous funding from the IDRC and the Shuttleworth Foundation.
Managed by the LINK Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, ACA2K established research teams in eight countries –Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda – to conduct primary research and policy engagement in relation to national copyright environments and learning materials access.
ACA2K produced an impressive range of outputs between 2007 and 2011: a set of eight Country Reports and Executive Policy Briefs; a Comparative Review of findings across the eight study countries; a series of Briefing Papers to support policy engagement at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva; and the book Access to Knowledge in Africa: The Role of Copyright (UCT Press, 2010), which was also published in French as L’accès au savoir en Afrique: le rôle du droit d’auteur (PUL, 2011).