Africa and Intellectual Property Rights by Jesse Adeniji

Categories: Business,Current Affairs

appleOne thing Nigerians and Africans will benefit from immediately is the simple matter of Intellectual Property Rights. Even if you’re a very established business/brand/individual in today’s Nigeria, you only leave the issues of business ideas in the hands of ‘God’ for safeguard. Yet you see the same folks proudly flaunting their designer label clothes, cars, food, and toys for everyone to see.

Africa will NEVER compete in the global arena without strong brands. And strong brands are a result of ideas which are duly protected and RESPECTED. That results in jobs and wealth. Nigeria wastes time and lives on the crude oil extraction with a finish date. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, e.t.c are IDEAS which will keep going through the metamorphosis of the human intellect and will self-renew. Then we’d spend our entire lives depending on them. They keep prospering, while we may keep buying arms and politicking to gain advantage over the earth’s remaining resources.

Again, have you asked yourself why the Antique business, worth several billions of Pounds is wholly based on the Intellectual Property Rights (hard work and craft) of dead people, some over 5000 years ago? In Nigeria, it’s worth almost nothing………….

More poignant to the lack of appreciation for enterprise is the announcement that a Nigerian has overtaken the famed Oprah Winfrey as the world’s richest woman. Now, take the Oprah franchise, a massive outlay of enterprise with TV crews, negotiating teams, legal teams, TV franchises, web teams including designers, writers, producers, CGI professionals and equally expansive PR teams. Not minding the Real Estate teams, cameras, clothing and stylists, lighting equipment e.t.c, creates add on enterprise for thousands of Americans and non Americans globally. To the American economy, she’s an invaluable entrepreneur responsible for the livelihood of many who in turn pay taxes to the government and have a reason for living.

The Nigerian lady on the other hand, may be richer but has less influence in her own country and globally other than playing in a niche environment. It’s not her fault but of the system though………the way our oil wells are sold. I am not begrudging her for her feat. I am chuffed for her. I am only highlighting why Nigeria works for the few who are opportuned but in the end, much of her wealth will remain in the West and will be put to good use enriching and supporting the quality of lives of the people over there.

I had very high hopes for Star Lager………’s the only brand I have seen with the capacity of registering Nigeria’s name on the international map convincingly. It is providing jobs for lots of Nigerians and international brands have found it very hard to beat it on its own turf. It’s been spinning money year in year out. All that remained for it was to expand and capture the West African market and gradually establish itself in the areas where the Diaspora market is strongest – incidentally the same key areas of the global market – London, Munich, Italy, Brazil, Holland, e.t.c. and if proper management is applied, could go on acquisition mode like the South African Breweries and Miller merger……. You will be gutted to realise it’s been sold to Heineken. Meanwhile, Heineken, contributes majorly to the economy of its home country.

Back to the IPR issue, until people with ideas are given the opportunity to profit by them, grow big and offer opportunity for others to find their dreams in it….. Africa will always play the second fiddle. Have a look at a Japanese person, say in London: He wears the Onitsuka Tiger footwear, wears Tokyo Laundry or SuperDry apparel, eats out at a Japanese restaurant……

A Nigerian will in contrast wear a Nike or Adidas footwear, have a Tommy Hilfiger on his back and eat out at the Chinese restaurant…..

Of course I am not saying they only wear their own stuff all the time, but they do have the options of promoting their own countries global brands! At least they have built the capacity to project from their own country and have given each citizen the cause to have pride in the brands they use.

Out there in the socio-economic landscape, BRANDS compete! Not egos or greed. South Korea is a powerful country today not so much because it wields massive military power, but because it has grown global brands we all have fallen in love with. If you don’t believe that, ask the North Koreans! Or the Chinese who have found out being the factory of the world is the first step; the next is producing your own global brand. Africa needs to think. Help her!


Jesse Adeniji, a marketing communications expert writes from the United Kingdom

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