The Nyau King delivering his speech in Kampala
* AfrIPI’s overall objective is to facilitate intra-African trade and African/European investment
* It aims to create, protect, utilize, administer and enforce Intellectual Property Rights across Africa
* AfrIPI project launch marks a historic milestone in the quest to safeguard intellectual property rights for African artists
* As a custodian of culture, I stand before you invigorated and optimistic of a future Africa that justly rewards its talent
By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi’s top performing artist, Taygrin delivered a keynote address at the launch of Intellectual Property Rights & Innovation in Africa (AfrIPI) held in Kampala, Uganda on Thursday, August 26. an international cooperation project funded and directed by the European Union.
AfrIPI was co-funded and implemented by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and has a duration of 4 years starting from February 2020.
Its overall objective is to facilitate intra-African trade and African/European investment — specifically aiming to create, protect, utilize, administer and enforce Intellectual Property Rights across Africa, in line with international and European best practice and in support of the AfCFTA and the African Union ́s Agenda 2063.
In his speech — entitled ’Words Don’t Pay Debts’ — the Nyau King started by saying: “In my culture it is customary poyamba mwambo kumuthokoza Mulungu. By this I mean we have to give thanks to God for the gift of life while acknowledging that being alive today and being present at this auspicious occasion is merely by grace and not a privilege.
“As we all know we are living in very dangerous times where even a warm embrace could kill you.”
He continued to say it was an honour for him and his country Malawi and on behalf of all African artists to deliver the keynote speech.
“Today, the AfrIPI project launch marks a historic milestone in the quest to safeguard intellectual property rights for African artists — an achievement worth celebrating.
“As a custodian of culture I stand before you invigorated and optimistic of a future Africa that justly rewards its talent unlike unhinged the current unorthodox practices that exist in our various African industries.
“This AfrIPI project will arm our respective authorities and bring an end to rogue ideas of syphoning from our cultural reservoirs and reproducing masterpieces that mislead the fabrics of history.”
He told the delegates that for Malawian and African artists’ identities, ideas, fashion, among others have been stolen for a long time.
“Rhythms have enriched other nations beyond the continent, but with nothing to show monetary wise back home. It is undisputed that Africa is now the new frontier of the world in terms of Art.
“This indeed is the right time for this project. African culture is profound and unique, people have spoken a lot about Africa, how great our music is, dances, paintings, sculptures, poetry, you name it.
“The truth of the matter is that we are unique. But unfortunately words don’t pay debts. I repeat words don’t pay debts.”
He further said as a young man, he is one that loves to learn more about the past to have a clear picture of the future.
“With this allow me to quickly teleport you to the year 1939 when Judy Garland made a fortune from her 1939 hit song ‘Over the Rainbow”.
“It was in that same year that our own brother Solomon Linda from the southern part of Africa — to be specific for those who my wish to know — from South Africa in a small tin house south east of Soweto in Johhanesburg.
“Brother Linda composed one of the greatest songs from the continent to the world, Mbube which means Lion. Indeed this composition was a Lion of a composition.
“Unfortunately, this Lion did not catch any game for Solomon. On record Brother Solomon died with just $25 — but only for Mbube the great song to resurface in the United States of America catching big game for Disney in their 1994 blockbuster movie The Lion King.
“Indeed, it was the same Lion, but in a different Jungle. In the American Jungle those who introduced Mbube were able to collect every cent and enjoy the Lions share, literally.
“In the African Jungle Mbube never collected a dime. The Jungle had no proper rules and ways on how the Lion was to get its share. The same can be said about Africa even today.
“We create Lions that roar far and beyond our continent, but with nothing to show for it monetary wise. We certainly need modern and efficient ways to make the Lions we create catch the game.”
The Nyau King further wowed the delegates by saying the AfrIPI launch is a journey that will catch the game and encouraged the delegates and the rest of Africa to put together all concerted efforts and make the initiative work.
He also gave an example of copyright expert Dr. Owen Dean, who personally directed a litigation on behalf of Solomon Linda’s family in 2021.
He said Linda’s family were living in abject poverty in the slums of Soweto but thanks to Dean they have been duly compensated for the past, the present and the future.
“Simply put, let me just say that they now have the lion’s share. But not all creatives in the Motherland have the opportunity to be presented by this copyright expert Dr. Dean.
“All they speak are just words — but remember words never paid any debts. Fortunately, on this day we speak not just words that can’t pay no debts.
“We have an organization that will make sure that we are able to not just pay debts, but to be paid ourselves.
“In the words of Hopal Green, ‘A little bit of sacrifice is needed in order to succeed, if you don’t then your success might become short of what it could have been’.
“Thank you Afripi for rising to the occasion and sacrificing for Africa. Your sacrifice is not in vain, but will make a huge difference in the lives of artists and will be a stepping stone for great things to come, and for others to build on. I am most obliged.”
Afripi takes cognizance that innovation and creativity are the core drivers of sustainable economic development, and intellectual property rights are the key tools to generate value from intangible assets.
A strong enabling environment for IP creation, protection, administration and enforcement will boost the participation of African countries in the world economy, and stimulate innovation and competitiveness of the private sector.