Africa University (AU) has launched a masters degree programme in intellectual property to promote commercialisation of intellectual property rights which is critical in enhancing Africa and Zimbabwe’s industrialisation and modernisation process.

Despite Africa being rich in terms of resources and innovations, the continent is lagging behind in terms of registration and commercialisation of intellectual property rights.

In an interview at the sidelines of the launch of the Master in Intellectual Property 12th cohort at AU in Mutare, African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) Director General, Fernando Dos Santos said Africa accounts for only 0.6 percent of the over 3 million patents registered every year and 2.5 percent of trademarks.

“The continent is not maximising on benefits that can accrue from technological innovations taking place in Africa. In terms of patents, there are at least three million new applications with Africa contributing 0.6 percent and only contributing 2.5 percent on global trade marks. A lot of innovations are not registered and commercialised with the ideas being stolen by other continents,” he said.

Master of Intellectual Property Programme Facilitator, George Mandewo and Africa University Vice Chancellor Professor Munashe Furutsa both underscored the importance of promoting generation, registration and commercialisation of intellectual property rights in order for African countries to accelerate industrialisation.

“The idea is not only about generation, but also protection and commercialisation of intellectual property. The herbal field is one of the areas where Africa has an added advantage. We are educating Africans to generate innovations that translate into technological solutions, new processes and products and usher in industrialisation and modernisation of Africa,”  AU Vice Chancellor, Professor Munashe Furutsa said.

Manicaland Minister of State, Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba said intellectual property rights have been overlooked yet Africa has had many inventions, adding that there should be organised exporting of skills in order for African countries to acquire remittances and brain tax.

“Africans have been robbed of their intellectual property. We educate our people with the brains being systematically drained to the developed countries at no cost. We should claim our intellectual property and one of the solutions should be organised exporting of skills for the country to acquire remittances and a brain tax,” said Dr Gwaradzimba.

The master in intellectual property programme has drawn students from 20 African countries, with the initiative expected to enhance generation, registration and commercialisation of intellectual property rights on the continent.