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Africa Must Move Now to Ensure It Is Not Left Out of the AI Agenda Conversation

The World Intellectual Property Organisation is driving a rapid policy process to set the international agenda on artificial intelligence and intellectual property, with debates centring on developed countries’ interests. The outcome is likely to constrain the policy space for Africa, where it is not receiving sufficient attention — but African countries have the chance to unite on policy positions through the intellectual property chapter of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

The rapidly emerging artificial intelligence (AI) agenda at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) needs attention from African policymakers. Global rules on intellectual property aspects of AI will determine who develops AI technologies as well as who benefits from them. WIPO has engaged in a process that it calls “leading the conversation” on AI and intellectual property.

WIPO officially began this process in September 2019 with a session in Geneva. In response to its December 2019 request for public comment on a draft issues paper, it received more than 250 submissions, the vast majority from the global North. In its response, one of the very few from Africa, Research ICT Africa (RIA) pointed out that the issues paper pays little attention to development.

In February 2020, WIPO, with the…


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