‘The Re- Scramble for Africa’ – Intellectual Property scramble

Whilst in the midst of a trademark legal suite between the Kenyan Government and a UK company regarding Kikoy(an anglicized version of KIKOI), the same Kenyan Government is once again taking the carrot being dangled by the Embassy of Japan.

There will be a ‘Made in Kenya Fair’ a ‘One-village One-product movement’ sponsored by Ministry of Trade and Industry, Embassy of Japan, Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA) and Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO)

The Fair will be in Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th March 2007 from 9.00am – 6pm at the KICC, court yard Grounds.

Apparently, the Government of Japan would like to introduce the concept of ‘One-village One-product’ movement in Kenya through the fair. The fair will showcase a variety of locally produced items from all regions of Kenya. It is expected that the fair will help identify one of more products that each region could promote to enable them participate competitively in the global market.

Now, apparently, about 70 exhibitors from various communities based all over Kenya will participate in the fair. The products to be exhibited include wood carvings, soapstone carvings, metal products, pottery and woven products. In essence things like Vikapu, Lessos, akalas and other products that are locally available but have not been traded in the International market will be the main focus of attention.

One should ask themselves these questions upon hearing of Japan sponsoring a cultural trade fair.
1. How does Japan stand to gain from the Fair
2. Why the sudden interest in cultural products(there is no mention of other products)
3. Will there be talks on Intellectual Property and protection of these artisans

Why is it that in the midst of Intellectual Property wars and woes that Kenya is in middle of and seems to always be loosing, a trade fair organised, not by the Kenyan Government with an aim of educating and informing handicraft makers and artists of need to protect their inventions, but by another government targeting the same traders encouraging them to start exporting.

The Government should have by now realized that various cultural items are very at this point, quite vulnerable to stealing and a major campaign to sensitize artists and artisans on need to protect their artistic inventions should be launched even before allowing any international organisations to come and scrutinize other items that might appeal to the international market.

Reading an article on today’s Nation (23rd March 2007) ‘Licensed to Steal? New truths about Kikoi, pirates and Patents’, It is very evident the strategy being used by the western world in this Patenting saga. A friend of mine called it Neo-colonialism, I call it ‘The Re- Scramble for Africa’

The Kenyan Government owes Kenyans the responsibility of protecting its artists from exploitation in the name ‘One- village, one- product’ movement and many others that will come.

I ask the same question as Mr. Gatonye Gathura(the writer of the Nation Article), “Is Kenya ready to put up such a spirited fight for kikoi, khanga, lesso, akala and many other cultural resources?”

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Showcasing the best in Kenyan Arts;Music,writing,Poetry,fine art and art reviews as well as info on emerging art trends. “Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite…getting something down.”