With support from GIZ, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is supporting the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). An important AfCFTA objective refers to “Enhanced socio-economic development, diversification and industrialization across Africa”. The creation of technological absorption capacities through voluntary transfers of technology and know-how plays an essential role in this context.

Hon. Abdulsamad Abdbulrahim, EABC Board Directors represented members at the expert consultation meeting on “Promoting Trade through Diversification and Industrialization under the African Continental Free Trade Area”  held on 14th  & 15th February 2019 at Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. The consultations examined the most important avenues of voluntary technology transfer including intellectual property (IP) licensing and know-how transfer in research and development (R&D) collaboration agreements and in commercial contracts and other voluntary arrangements.

The discussion identified what are the main emerging technologies for AfCFTA Members reviewed the legal, economic and practical challenges faced by developing country R&D institutions and the private sector in setting up institutional IP policies and negotiating IP and know-how arrangements.

The discussion highlighted:

  • Voluntary contracts may be important sources of technology: Read research on Local Production of Pharmaceuticals and Related Technology Transfer in Developing Countries. A series of case study by the UNCTAD Secretariat-Argentina, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Jordan, Thailand, Uganda
  • There are specific inter-firm technology transactions
  • There is a need for R&D collaboration with universities - In-house policies of firms and universities:
  • Licensing of IP and technology from foreign investors is often accompanied by capacity building and know-how to transfer, this is the decisive element!
  • Contracts do not stand in isolation: policies matter: Government policies to create attractive market conditions (e.g. government purchase guarantee, IP, investment protection, taxes, trade facilitation, legal certainty & predictability)
  • Governments need to create/develop conducive framework conditions in Education, Science, technology and innovation, Investment, Intellectual Property, Tech Transfer and Patents, and Trademark linkages –Policy coherence is crucial
  • Role of governments in matchmaking
  • Mechanisms for tech transfer as licensing, FDI, informal/reverse engineering.

 Tech transfer in industrial diversification in light of the AfCFTA has the potential to break the dependency on low-skill/low-pay processing jobs, furthermore, tech transfer in the digital context is an opportunity for the continent to leapfrog to the fourth industrial revolution. Source: UNCTAD