The Gambia is working towards the formulation of a National Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy document. Stakeholders are meeting at the Kairaba Beach Hotel for a two day forum to formulate the said document. The forum which opened yesterday is organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) in collaboration with the Gambia Government.
In his opening remarks, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Lamin Jobarteh said the importance of intellectual property in this modern age of the knowledge based economy cannot be overemphasized. He noted that the progress of a society is no longer dependent on the favours of nature such as the amount of gold, silver or crude oil found within a state's territory. "Instead the development of societies and states are increasingly driven by the knowledge and skills of its people and the ability to harness and exploit its knowledge and resources", he said.
Minister Jobarteh explained that the Gambia had Intellectual Property Laws in existence since the pre independence era but were not underlined by any identifiable policy objectives. He stressed the importance on the formulation of an Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy cannot be emphasised. He noted that intellectual property has great potential to contribute to the economic advancement of a nation and its people.
The Justice Minister explained that in the past two years, his department embarked on an intensive effort to clear the heavy backlog of intellectual property publications in the national gazette. He said it has now started printing the intellectual property certificates to its rightful holders.
In January 2011, said Minister Jobarteh, the industry property regulations came into force which simplifies the gazetting and registration procedures for registration of industrial property. He stated further that the Copyright Office also formulated the first set of draft copyright regulations on registration of works which were adopted. Registration of works made in the Gambia began in the second quarter of 2011, he said.
Also speaking at the opening was Francoise Wege, Deputy Director, Regional Bureau for Africa, WIPO who spoke on behalf of the Director General of WIPO.
She said one of WIPO's strategic goals is to ensure that member countries make effective use of intellectual property (IP) in ways that are appropriate, productive and logically related to national development objectives.
Mrs. Wege added that WIPO seeks to build countries' capacity to increase their intellectual property assets to contribute to engineering development and sustainable growth. She stressed the importance of intellectual property in creating wealth, noting that if strategically utilized it can contribute significantly to stimulating economic growth. She added that it also contributes to improving competiveness on the global market.
Mrs. Wege noted that during the two days forum, participants will have the opportunity to collectively examine the preliminary findings and recommendations of the experts as well as policy options for developing IP system that will stimulate the Gambia's industrial, commercial and cultural sectors.
For his part, the Director General of ARIPO, GIFT Huggins Sibanda said ARIPO has the mandate to promote, develop and harmonise intellectual property in Africa. This mandate, he went on, can only be achieved if member states of the organisation have appropriate IP infrastructures and frameworks to absolve the deliverables of ARIPO and other like organisations such as WIPO. He expressed hope that the forum will provide participants the platform to share views on varying issues in the field of intellectual property.
Mr. Sibanda added it will also afford them an opportunity to review the preliminary findings and recommendations of the experts by key stakeholders and partners. He stated further that the forum will be an opportunity to understand the country's vision and priorities to sensitise stakeholders on how to best leverage intellectual property for economic development/ it will also be an opportune time for stakeholders and partners to have a consensus on the targets and time frame for the implementation of the IP policy and strategy.