In this 71st instalment, we outline the administrative and functional mandates of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (Aripo).
Intellectual Property Perspectives by Richard Pasipanodya
Formation of Aripo
Aripo was founded upon the ashes of the British colonial legacy. With the advent of Independence, English-speaking former colonies realised they had inherited wholly unsatisfactory intellectual property legislative regimes.
Some countries were merely re-registering foreign titles while others had either fragmented or parallel systems of more than one colonial master. This was viewed as unacceptable as it served to promote foreign policy interest at the expense of local innovativeness and creativity.
By the turn of the 1970s, some newly independent countries came together in negotiations with a view to creating a regionally-harmonised and coordinated IP legislative system.
It was agreed that such a system had many derivative benefits and advantages as it eliminated duplication and waste of similar activities, time and resources. With the guidance of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo) the countries concluded and adopted the Lusaka Agreement in Zambia in 1996.
The Lusaka Agreement
The Lusaka Agreement is essentially a constitutive instrument which lays out the membership, structure and objectives of Aripo.
Subsequent amendments expanded the membership of Aripo to reflect its Pan- African character to include any state party to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union (AU). Aripo was initially headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. Zimbabwe is now its host country as of 1981.
Objectives of Aripo
The objectives of Aripo define its functionality as a regional intellectual property institution in that it seeks to:
Promote the harmonisation of national laws, policies and practices of member states.
Foster strengthened and closer working relationship among member states;
Establish common services or organs that may appropriately serve the needs and aspiration of member states;
Establish training schemes with a view to appropriately equipping and empowering nationals of its member states;
Organise seminars, workshops and other training-oriented meetings in a bid to create awareness and instill conscientisation in the Aripo citizenry;
Promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge through the exchange of ideas, experiences, research and studies with cooperating strategic partners,
Assist member states with appropriate acquisition of and development of technologies
Membership of Aripo
Currently, Aripo is comprises 18 member states, namely; Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. There are a number of countries which have remained as observers in that though they have expressed interest in joining, they have not taken the required moves to do so. These include South Africa, Nigeria, and Seychelles, among others.
Aripo’s organisational structure consists of four organs, namely the Council of Ministries, the Administrative Council, the Secretariat and the Board of Appeal.
The Council of Ministers is the supreme organ of Aripo responsible for defining, orienting and stewarding the policies of the organisation. It is constituted of Ministers of State members who are entrusted with the administration of intellectual property matters, in our case the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
The Council of Ministers meets at least once every two years, but can also convene as and when called upon. For the past eight years the frequency has been towards the end of each calendar year.
This is besides the adhoc meetings which may be initiated or called upon by the chairperson of the Administrative Council or the Director General of the Aripo Secretariat. It is the preview of the Council of Ministers to decide which state not party to Aripo or other bodies and institutions may be admitted into its meeting. The meetings are held on a rotational basis in all member countries.
The Administrative Council is second in importance within the Aripo hierarchical structure. It constitutes heads of offices entrusted with dealing with intellectual property matters of the Aripo member states.
However, countries are at liberty to nominate any other person or persons they consider to have the requisite knowledge to represent them in the council. The Administrative Council is responsible for recommending policies to the Council of Ministers and supervising the implementation of those policies by the Secretariat.
It meets at least once a year in ordinary session, but may from time to time convene extra-ordinary sessions to discuss urgent and important issues regarding the governance of the organisation.
Its mandated functions include formulating and directing the implementation of the organisation’s polices by the Secretariat, approval of the Secretariat’s programme of activities and budget proposals, establishment of rules of procedure, establishment of the Secretariat including the appointment of the Director General, establishment of subsidiary organs where appropriate, making rules governing organization’s financial and administrative functions, including its cooperation with global players and partners.
This is the functionary organ of the organisation responsible for implementing and executing policies, rules and procedures. The secretariat as established by the Administrative Council is headed by the Director General who is appointed on merit but on a country to country rotational basis. There is also the professional staff, whose qualifications reflect the organisation’s membership.
These are entrusted with the responsibilities to preside over the various portfolios of the organisation. They are in turn supported by clerical staff drawn from the host country.
Reporting to the Administrative Council, the Secretariat is entrusted with examining and recommending the best ways in which the organisation’s objectives can be discharged. Further, the secretariat is obliged to undertake such studies and work pertinent to the organisation’s mandated functions
The Board of Appeal
The Board of Appeal is a quasi-judicial organ appointed by the Administrative Council on the recommendation of the Director General. Again its composition is reflective of the organisation’s membership, but consisting of qualified personnel. Its jurisdiction is to review the decisions of the Director General in his/her administrative functions. It is the last court of appeal and thus its decisions are final. This organ is a recent development and as such it is yet to impress its footprint in the organisation’s hierarchical structures.
Pasipanodya is an IP consultant who writes in his own capacity. Feedback on: mobile +263 775 053 007 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org