Unprotected African Intellectual Property Rights

In Bob Marley’s rendition of his philosophical soundtrack Rat Race, the reggae icon points out “in the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.” Robert Nasta Marley got it so right within the context of
unlimited African intellectual property.

From traditional and folklore repertoire such as juju music, to food and clothing, such as jollof and kente, Africa has left its abundance of intellectual property unprotected, and others are exploiting the unlimited culture and nature situation endowed within.

The rhythm of classical Ghanaian folklore music, Yaa Amponsah, has been utilized by many, including the legendary Paul Simon, who found it suitable in his Spirit Voices track. Paul Simon, however, in his own accord and goodwill, donated funds to the government of Ghana in honor of Yaa Amponsah. While some West African countries debate and compete on whose jollof rice tastes best, non-Africans are packaging it for international taste and market. Shito, a spicy blend of dry red pepper, ginger, dried fish, and shrimp in oil that is widely used in Ghana, is being sautéed in China.

Basic African brooms, sandals, and anything Africa are bundled, packaged, and sold for hundreds of dollars at high-end New York department stores. The unique kente cloth designs of Ghana have become so popular that they have permeated almost every culture in the world. And the list goes on.

Disneyland has now joined in the fray to trademark the Kiswahili phrase Hakuna matata, which is a response to greetings widely used in East Africa. Hakuna matata literary means “no worries” or “no problem.”

In colonial days, African artifacts and cultural iconography were pilfered or simply seized by Europeans through their might. In contemporary world, the power of “seizure” has been replaced with the power of mind that is being executed through intellectual property rights. And Africa governments stand indifferent! We would not be surprised if the Ghanaian welcoming slogan Akwaaba or the Igbo salutation Kwenu, or the Hausa word for trouble or problem Wahala are exploited and trademarked by non-Africans for commercial purposes.

Africa has been exploited physically, emotionally, and economically in the past, and Amandla thinks it is high time Africa stood up against cultural exploitation, including the spoken word. The World
Intellectual Property Organization is the first stop to stem this act. To paraphrase Bob Marley, in his Redemption Song: “How long shall they steal our rights while we stand aside and look….” And as we say in pidgin English, “this na proper wahala.”

Posted by on Dec 17 2018. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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