The 7th Joint Commission of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI) took place in Harare, Zimbabwe, from June 12 to 13, 2024. This event marked a significant milestone for these two organizations dedicated to advancing intellectual property rights protection and innovation across Africa.

During the opening remarks, ARIPO Director General Mr. Bemanya Twebaze emphasised the importance of the joint commission, expressing that it symbolises the shared vision and commitment to advancing the IP landscape across the continent. He underlined the necessity of developing human resources in intellectual property through collaboration, stating that exchanging information about their efforts is crucial for everyone's benefit.

“The shift to knowledge-based economies in Africa highlights the increasing role of intellectual property. There is a need for evidence-based policies to demonstrate IP’s role in economic development and poverty alleviation. ARIPO and OAPI are well-positioned to harness the ingenuity and creativity of Africa’s young population”, added Twebaze.

Dr. Denis Loukou Bohoussou, the Director General of OAPI, reaffirmed OAPI's commitment to furthering its cooperation with ARIPO. "Let's strive to achieve our goals and aspirations of creativity and innovation, promoting intellectual property for the economic and technological development of our Member States," he stated.

The collaboration between ARIPO and OAPI is founded on mutual respect and shared objectives aimed at promoting economic growth through robust IP systems. The meeting built upon cooperation agreements between ARIPO and OAPI, which mandate annual meetings to assess progress and define future actions.  This includes cooperation, targeted IP awareness activities, and strengthening ties with the African Union, WIPO, and regional economic blocs.

At the 7th Joint Commission, the discussion also explored the potential harmonisation of the IP systems of ARIPO and OAPI, focusing on industrial property, copyright, traditional knowledge, protection of new plant varieties, and geographical indications. Integration of ICT tools in IP management in the digital era was also a crucial topic. The meeting provided a platform to exchange experiences in developing ICT systems and strategies based on emerging developments affecting intellectual property rights and the dissemination of works.

Both organizations have made significant progress in their respective areas since the last Joint Commission in Yaounde, Cameroon, in May 2022. Dr. Bohoussou highlighted activities such as ARIPO’s participation in the 9th edition of the African Fair on Invention and Innovative Enterprises held in Côte d’Ivoire in July 2023, the OAPI-ARIPO Conference in Singapore held on 18 May 2023, and organizing the WIPO-ARIPO-OAPI regional conference on IP for women in agribusiness held in May 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The 2024-2025 Work Plan was adopted at the conclusion of the Joint Commission. It aims to streamline processes and provide comprehensive support to Member States, enabling them to manage IP complexities effectively.

The joint efforts of ARIPO and OAPI are expected to strengthen their bond, paving the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for Africa's IP landscape.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Joint Commission, which began in 2014.