Africa must now change to be a consumer of its own music, art and culture, Kenya’s Attorney General Retired Justice Kihara Kariuki has said.
Kariuki said the protection of copyrights is thus essential as it puts money in the pockets of authors, producers and all creators, he added.
Speaking today in Nairobi during a continental meeting on Copyright, Justice Kihara noted that copyright and creative expression represent a new frontier for Africa’s development and already contributes significantly to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many countries.
This, he added is evidenced by studies conducted with the support of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa that established Africa is a significant importer of many cultural products especially movies , music and books.
“This represents both an opportunity and a threat to the culture and languages in this region and Africa must guard against the misappropriation of its culture property,” he said.
The AG explained that the vital role played by libraries, museums, and education and research institutions make it easier for their users to obtain information and provide the opportunity to search materials that would otherwise not be easily accessed.
He called on African governments to consider the functions of libraries in different types in the provision of information services, ensuring quality education and lifelong learning of building cultural identity, preservation of culture and transforming communities as they make decisions about copyright limitations and exceptions.
The AG said that copyright industry in Kenya contributes significantly to the economic development with the copyright based industries contributing Sh 85.1 billion which is 5.3 percent of the GDP.
“Kenya has placed innovation and creativity at the center of its development plans and developed strategies that will enable artists to realize full benefit from their intellectual property,” he said.
As part of the government’s commitment to the protection and advancement of copyright and access to public information, Justice Kihara said that his office has embarked on the process of ensuring that Kenya ratifies all the International Copyright treaties that it is a signatory to.
“The process of ratification of the Beijing treaty is now at the parliamentary stage while the Cabinet is considering the ratification of the WIPO Treaties,” he added.
Justice Kihara further said that his office has forwarded to Parliament the Copyright Amendment Bill that when enacted into law will safeguard the interest of creators in the digital environment and also address the gaps identified in the current legal framework.
The AG appealed to the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization to take centre stage in establishing the building blocks for a vibrant copyright industry in Africa.
World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Deputy Director General, Copyright and Creative Industries sector Ms Sylvie Forbin said a great deal is happening across the continent that will lead to phenomenal growth in the creative industries across the region.
“New business models are springing up and this growth relates to the uptake of the mobile broadband and internet access,” she added
Forbin explained that internet is growing across the continent with Kenya leading with 83 percent for the level of penetration nationally, followed by Liberia at 80 percent and Seychelles at 70 percent.
The report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) supported by WIP predicts huge increases in entertainment and media sectors over the next three years for five countries namely Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa .
“This projected growth ranges between nine and 14 percent and again is directly linked to the increase in the internet access,”she said.
While the internet has changed the ways of distribution and access to content, Ms Forbin said “ We cannot forget that the traditional means such as radios, TVs and CDs remain relevant and maybe the mainstay in some countries.”
“We need to ensure that the growth is symmetric for those who create content and that the benefits accrue to them as well as those who bring it to the market,” Forbin said
The two day meeting organized by WIPO in conjunction with Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) will be hosting three back to back continental meetings on Copyright.
The meeting will look at the economic importance of copyright, how it should be managed as well as how it’s potential can be fully realized.
By Wangari Ndirangu