Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

Bio-Cultural Knowledge and the Challenges of Intellectual Property Rights Regimes for African Development

Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

Bio-Cultural Knowledge and the Challenges of Intellectual Property Rights Regimes for African Development

Article excerpt

African states have, since the colonial encounter, been part of the international regimes on intellectual property rights. Formal accession to various treaties and conventions on intellectual property rights instruments should not be mistaken for actual internalization of the policies, structures and norms required for reaping the promised benefits of participation in such regimes. There is ample evidence showing that most African states do not have the requisite structures for fruitful engagement with international intellectual property rights regimes. Until this anomaly is rectified, African states' engagement with international intellectual property regimes will remain structurally flawed and inimical to the human development of African peoples.

Les Etats africains sont, depuis l'époque coloniale, partie aux régimes internationaux en matière de droits de propriété intellectuelle. L'accession officielle à divers traités et conventions sur les instruments relatifs aux droits de propriété intellectuelle ne doit pas être confondue avec l'internalisation des politiques, des structures et des normes requises pour récolter les fruits promis de la participation à ces régimes. Les preuves abondent, qui attestent que la plupart des États africains n'ont pas les structures requises pour tirer tous les avantages requis de leur participation aux régimes internationaux relatifs aux droits de propriété intellectuelle. Jusqu'à ce que cette anomalie soit rectifiée, l'adhésion parles États africains à ces régimes continuera de souffrir de lacunes structurelles et d'être peu favorable au développement humain des peuples africains.


I. What is medicinal bio-cultural knowledge?

1. Plant genetic centres and bio-cultural knowledge

2. The rhetoric and reality of biopiracy

3. The colonial origins and outlook of IRPs regimes in Africa

4. The herbalist and colonial encounter

II. Charting escape routes


It is generally recognized that Hugh Kindred is one of the most influential law teachers and legal scholars in contemporary Canada. His expertise in the areas of public international law, maritime law, and transport law is not in any shade of dispute. However, a key but understated aspect of his influence, indeed, impact on public international law is his focus on the experiential and practical status of international rules and prescriptions at the municipal level. Another way of framing the issue is to determine whether states are in fact complying with and implementing their obligations arising from accession to international treaties. More importantly, are those obligations truly useful and beneficial to states already burdened with inefficient institutions? For African states this question has significant ramifications, especially in the field of international intellectual property law.

Within this context, the central question addressed in this paper is whether, despite accessions to a multitude of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) treaties by African states, IPRs regimes in Africa, as presently constituted, have any role to play in the protection and development of bio-cultural knowledge in Nigeria. And if those IPRs regimes are not up to the task, why is it so? The thrust of the argument here is that owing to historical foundational flaws in African IPRs regimes, coupled with the cultural dissonance between Eurocentric IPRs regimes and indigenous African culture and models of economic production, the dominant model of IPRs deriving their life force from international treaties and practices has proven inadequate for the protection of medicinal bio-cultural knowledge in Africa. Given the broad scope of bio-cultural resources, this paper focuses on the medicinal aspects of bio-cultural knowledge.

I approach the subject in three phases. The first phase is introductory and lays out the definitional concepts and issues relating to medicinal bio- cultural knowledge. …

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