Africa Update 2020 – Malawi

The Launch of the National Intellectual Property Policy

Malawi launched the National Intellectual Property Policy in May 2019. The Policy forms part of the government’s Growth and Development Strategy III, which has identified industrialisation and the structural transformation of the economy as a key priority area, essential to maintaining long-term growth and economic development. The Policy acknowledges that IP has effectively been sidelined from the national development agenda since Malawi’s independence, recognising IP as a catalyst for technological advancement, economic growth, and national development, while provides a framework to foster the generation, protection and exploitation of IP.

The Policy aims to address the deficiencies created by outdated IP laws and the antiquated institutions that administer and manage them while dealing with the lack of deliberate and coordinated policies. The Policy looks to leverage the IP system as a tool for stimulating the generation, protection, and commercialisation of IP assets, in turn, encouraging innovation and creativity for economic growth and development, while enhancing entrepreneurship and business competitiveness).

The Policy identifies five priority areas:

1. An effective institutional framework for modernising the administration of intellectual property rights. The Policy envisages the creation of a modern unified and autonomous agency responsible for the administration and management of IP in Malawi;

2. The generation and protection of IP assets. The Policy acknowledges that the output of locally generated IP rights is meagre and envisages the stimulation of locally generated IP rights through the provision of various types of incentives and funding;

3. The effective exploitation and commercialisation of IP assets. The Policy envisages, amongst other things, the creation of innovation centres or units as well as support structures for micro, small and medium enterprises;

4. An effective and balanced legal regime for IP rights. Here, the Policy envisages a review of Patent, Copyright, and Design legislation, the preparation of legislation and strategies for the protection and exploitation of traditional knowledge, genetic resources, and expressions of folklore originating from Malawi, as well as the implementation of the international agreements (such as TRIPS, etc) to promote the national interest;

5. IP awareness creation and capacity building. The Policy envisages the teaching of IP at school and tertiary level, the establishment of an Institute of IP Attorneys, the development of capacity for IP enforcement and dispute resolution as well as the coordination of IP enforcement activities, etc.

The Policy also identifies various stakeholders responsible for the implementation of each of these priority areas, providing times frames for the implementation thereof, as well as a monitoring and evaluation plan.

KEY OPPORTUNITIES & CONCERNS

Opportunities

  • The land is agriculturally-productive and lends itself to expanded food production
  • The country faces no internal or external security threats and has achieved a stable government
  •  Tourism has made inroads in the country and the industry is set for expansion at Lake Malawi and other key attractions

Concerns

  • The landlocked country has few natural resources to exploit
  • Controversial 2019 election that led to a court challenge illustrate s continuing tumultuous political landscape
  • Rapid population growth hinders social and economic development

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