Report on CI's African regional meeting on A2K
Consumers International's African regional meeting on A2K was held in Nairobi, Kenya on 23 April. It was attended by sixteen African members and partners, including the President of CI, Samuel Ochieng, all of whom participated actively. The meeting succeeded in raising important issues for consumers that even the previous two regional meetings had not covered. These will be consolidated with ideas raised at the previous two regional meetings in CI's strategic plan on IP and A2K for the global consumer movement, to be presented at CI's Council meeting in June. The meeting agenda contains links to the presentations that were given.
Reports from CI's members and partners
The first report was from Dick Kawooya from the Africa Copyright and A2K project (ACA2K). After introducing the ACA2K project which operates in eight African countries, he spoke about the case of Kenya in particular, noting that Kenya had acquired a reputation of enforcing IP rights relatively strongly, and that in fact a seminar on anti-counterfeiting was taking place simultaneously with CI's regional meeting on A2K.
He hoped that input from consumers could prevent a current review of the Kenyan copyright legislation from producing too unbalanced an outcome. Already, Kenya has limited the use of devices to circumvent technological protection measures (TPMs), despite not being a signatory to the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT).
We also heard from the following other members and partners:
Japhet Otike from Moi University and Electronic Information for Libraries (eIFL), who observed that the right to access information is constitutionally protected in Kenya, but that there are many problems in practice such as the fact that affordable Internet access does not extend outside the large towns, and that publishers do not supply post-secondary learning materials.
Felicia Monye from the Consumer Awareness Organisation of Nigeria spoke of the fact that the Official Secrets Act has been used to restrict access to too much government information by Nigerian consumers, and that what might become a balancing piece of legislation – the Freedom of Information Bill – has been stalled by disagreement.
Paul Gérémie from ECAN/RACE in Cameroon spoke in French about IP in central Africa, and in particular the deleterious effects of unbalanced IP laws on food security and public health.
Matwire Benon from the Uganda Bureau of Standards gave a primer on intellectual property rights in Uganda, much of which is applicable elsewhere in Africa, and tabled a detailed paper for the participants' reference.
Lusungu Ndovi from the Zambian Consumer Association (ZACA) noted that there are 72 local languages in Zambia, and that apart from religious materials, very little content is available in these languages.
Emma Wanyonyi from Consumers Information Network (CIN) Kenya said that there is good access to learning materials at primary school level due to the state's obligation to provide free primary education, but questioned how sustainable this would remain as textbook costs continue to rise. She also noted that since 2007 photocopy centres have been required to pay licence fees, which has increased the cost of copying even uncopyrighted material.
During the closing strategic planning session, the following ideas were generated as priorities for CI's work with members in the areas of IP and A2K over the next few years (some have been reworded for clarity):
Advocate for the removal of taxes and customs on information resources
Collaborate with public media to make more information available
Ensure the coherence of access policy and regulatory frameworks (through case studies, campaigning and reform movements)
Increase government subsidy of learning materials and the provision of incentives to publishers through lobbying and awareness creation
Sensitise policy makers to IP and A2K issues
Raise public awareness of IP and A2K issues
Focus on media engagement
Focus on stakeholder engagement
Recognise capacity building as a key to access
Hold more workshops and meetings at global and national levels
Work on the digital television transition – extension of the migration period, seeking government subsidies for STBs for poor families, involving local industry
Seek government incentives to make affordable ICT tools available
Lobby for more relevant and current ICT infrastructure (eg hardware, bandwidth)
Increase the number of countries participating in CI's A2K activities
Encourage CI to work with existing and emerging networks to expand its A2K activities – ACA2K, eIFL, FAIFE, ATINA, etc
Enhance CI's Global Consumer Dialogue on A2K as a platform for dialogue
Develop a consumer-friendly copyright model law and factsheets
Conduct research on the impact of stringent IP and ICT regimes on social and economic indicators
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