Inventing new products and creating relatable services to problems have not been significant issues in most African countries. The real issue lies with the fact that the inventors or creators have always been denied the benefits of their ingenuity because of adequate knowledge of how Intellectual Property Protection works before and after developing the inventions.
Our analyst had earlier reported how the failure of protecting patent and intellectual property is weaning innovation ecosystem in Africa. In the piece, the submission was that concerned government stakeholders and individuals need to work collectively towards creation of a sustainable enabling environment for understanding and application of IP in all aspects of the society.
In Nigerian schools, little attention is being paid to the teaching of IP at the basic and secondary schools. This is not quite different at the higher education institutions. Ordinarily, law students are expected to be walked through the principles and practice of IP. However, neglecting other students in other faculties and colleges is doing a great disservice to the Nigerian society. Just as it does to other African societies, where little attention is being paid to inherent opportunities in IP as a business.
From the University of Ibadan to the Babcock University and the Bayero University to Obafemi Awolowo University, existing Intellectual Property policies address concerns of the academics and other staff in the academia more than the needs and concerns of the students. Mostly, according to our checks, the policies focus on issues within the contexts of ownership, rights, protection, commercialization and income sharing between academics and the universities’ authorities.
Beyond the university environment, our checks also established some research institutions and other higher education institutions equally have policies for strengthening intellectual rights. What remains to be done adequately is the teaching of IP as a course across disciplines.
In our experience, we have found that universities only have IP as course for students in the faculty of law and those who are doing programmes that relate to law. For instance, Mass Communication, Journalism and Media Studies programmes have courses that equip students with the skills, knowledge and experiences for understanding the terrain of copyright law.
In its quest of creating awareness about IP, the University of Lagos had the WIPO-Nigeria Summer School between July 19 and 30, 2021. This is laudable, being the first of its kind in Nigeria. Beyond Summer School, Nigeria needs to consider inclusion of IP as a course in all academic programmes. As hinted earlier, graduates of Mass Communication, Journalism, Media Studies and other programmes would always be willing to invent or create sustainable solutions when they realise the extent to which such solutions would be protected and capture value forever.