Microsoft has launched the Microsoft 4Afrika intellectual property (IP) Hub to give local developers and independent software vendors in Africa the required tools to develop, protect and monetize their innovations.
Microsoft said it designed the online IP Hub through its 4Afrika initiative to play a critical role in empowering African startups and innovators and help them monetize their innovations and ideas while availing them the opportunity to make and establish connections with the right investors.
The initiative will flagged off in Kenya and will be in operation for two years before launching in other countries on the continent. It will be managed by the local government who will streamline and digitize the process of IP registration and educate young innovators on the importance of having IP protection.
The newly launched portal will encourage IP culture in Africa where most innovators and business owners rely on secrecy rather than using established copyright, trademark, trade name and patent programs.
Microsoft said the reason for this is because many innovators in Africa do not understand the importance of having intellectual property right for their work while the educated ones are put-off by the long, manual and intimidating process of applying for one.
Compared to the United States where about 268,000 residents filed for IP right between 2009 and 2012; the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said African nations recorded low patronage during the same period as Egypt, South Africa and Kenya received 683,608 and 383 patent applications respectively. Countries like the Ivory Coast registered a miserly 53 resident patent applications.
Low record of IP application exposes most innovations to exploitation and and intellectual theft, relegating Africa to the backend of the knowledge economy ranking.
Microsoft 4Afrika Director for Legal and Corporate Affairs; Louis Otien said “Protecting intellectual property ultimately leads to wealth creation and economic growth, and encourages development of knowledge-based industries.”
For example the CEO of Kenya’s Virtual City Group, John Waibochi said “IP protection has played an important role in the foundation and growth of our business. From when it was just in the idea stage, we registered it through our IP lawyers with the relevant authorities.”
Having an IP protection has “allowed us to grow to where we are today, and ensures that our technology remains in the hands of Africans, for Africa and the world,” he concluded.