“Piracy is a disease we have to fight together” said Ms Maureen Fondo, Head of Copyright and Related Rights at ARIPO, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization at the Second ARIPO Annual Symposium on Shaping Copyright and Related Rights Systems in Africa held in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 12 and 13 June 2018.

Other recurring themes were the economic importance of both copyright and the creative industries for African countries; the role of the artist versus global business; preserving own cultures through strong copyright arrangements and international treaties; and education about copyright, including in schools.

Organised in collaboration with WIPO, delegates came from 18 of the 19 ARIPO member states, as well as observer delegations and representatives from CISAC, IFPI, IFRRO and the IPA (Nicol Faasen from South Africa, who sits on the ABC Board). With mainly representatives of the member states’ copyright offices and collective management organizations present, the Symposium also sought to promote efficiencies of administration and management in these organisations.

Opening the Symposium, guest of honor, Mr Kumbirai Hodzi (Deputy Attorney General of the Republic of Zimbabwe) noted the contradiction between the key role music plays in African societies and the inadequate protection and enforcement of music rights. Later, Mr John Kabare (ARIPO Intellectual Property Executive) emphasized the importance of the international copyright treaties and of domesticating those treaties. He also congratulated Lesotho, Ghana and Uganda who had recently ratified the Marrakesh Treaty. Liberia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe indicated that their countries were also moving towards ratifying the Treaty.

The programme covered numerous issues pivotal to the role of copyright in supporting the economic and employment development of Member States: the broadcasting industry and the proposed international treaty at WIPO; audiovisual production; visual artists’ resale rights; digital migration; the content industry in the digital environment; efficient alternative mechanisms for resolving rights disputes; and legal frameworks for copyright and international organizations’ priorities on copyright and related rights. IPA’s presentation was entitled “The work of the Accessible Books Consortium: How can Africa get involved?” 

A significant aspect of the Symposium programme was the feedback Ms Fondo gave on the progress of the Harare Strategic Plan which had been drafted at the first ARIPO Annual Symposium in 2017. The Plan has six areas of concern, including the following areas extracted from the draft updated plan which are relevant to IPA and related copyright stakeholders:

Area Key issues for reaching level playing field Responsibilities and possible collaboration
II. Institutional framework (Administrative infrastructure) Upgrading Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) Governance:
– To train CMOs & member states on the WIPO Good Practice toolkit including tariffs (Digital Licensing)
Member States and relevant ministries with the support of WIPO, ARIPO & Partners
III Capacity Building and Awareness Creation To build capacity in accessible format publishing for the visually impaired Member States and relevant ministries, publishers and publishing companies with the support of WIPO (ABC Consortium including IPA & IFFRO)
To hold annual African Copyright Symposium for Member States (ARIPO,OAPI & Observer states) ARIPO with support from WIPO & Partners
V. Building Partnerships and Synergies Advance the development of a sustainable national book-publishing sector to enable the production of local content including quality educational material Member States and relevant ministries, publishers, publishing companies and private sector with the support of WIPO (Publisher’s circle), ARIPO, IFFRO & IPA
VI. Enforcement Promoting respect for Copyright and related Rights for all intermediaries in the value chain Member States, relevant ministries, stakeholders WIPO, ARIPO and Partners
Build capacity of law enforcement agencies in the area of copyright and related rights Member States, relevant ministries, stakeholders WIPO, ARIPO and Partners


ARIPO and WIPO are to be commended for this initiative. It brought together important, influential players from government copyright offices, copyright management and reprographic rights offices, experienced representatives of rightsholder organisations, well-informed and schooled legal minds, technical experts, as well as key guests. The programme covered a wide range of topics – possibly too many for two days – but it did expose attendees to important recent developments, and offered many delegates an opportunity to express their challenges and needs.

ARIPO’s strength is that it is distributed evenly across Africa and includes countries that use English, Portuguese, Swahili and French and can therefore function as hubs reaching out to neighbouring countries.

Except for the IPA there were no other organisations directly associated with publishers and none with literary authors, although the close links between publishers, authors, WIPO and IFRRO should be acknowledged. It is therefore important for IPA to support ARIPO’s capacity building programmes in Africa.