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The Second Phase of the AfCFTA Focuses on IP Rights and Trade, and the Process of AfCFTA To date

As this Newsletter has reported previously, the AfCFTA is looking at how to improve intellectual property (IP) regulations in Africa. At present there are 2 major African IP regional bodies – the African Intellectual Property Organisation and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation – which AfCFTA proposes should be merged for efficiency. Then there are the differences between the Anglophone and Francophone intellectual property rights management which needs to be harmonised in order to avoid sometimes conflicting IP regulatory structures which would be contradictory in a continental wide free trade area.

AfCFTA is also encouraging member states to join the 2 main international treaties (“The Lisbon System”) currently regulating Geographical Indications. They include the Lisbon Agreement for the ‘Protection of Appellations of Origin and Their International Registration’ (the Lisbon Agreement), and the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on ‘Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications’ (the Geneva Act). Most African countries have not signed these GI treaties. Accession to these treaties carries political and economic benefits. GI status attracts higher revenue streams because of the customary assumption of quality that accrues to these products. Joining the Lisbon Agreement and the Geneva Act would aid African countries in extending their products beyond their shores. Member countries have treaty obligations to protect GI products from misappropriation and abuse. As an example, South African Rooibos tea and Karoo lamb are certified GI products, which means that they enjoy protection outside the continent, leading to enormous financial benefits for South Africa.

Meanwhile Tralac (see @TradeLawCentre) has issued a report on the process of the negotiations of AfCFTA. This report points out that many countries have yet to enter the formal negotiations because they still need to ratify the AfCFTA treaty; negotiations on both the reduction of tariffs (customs duties) and, more importantly, the rules on country of origin still have a long way to go before agreement. Next week Tralac will be running a course on Women in Trade (#SheGovernsTrade).

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Alastair Tempest

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