Rwanda's government has once again reiterated its resolve in protecting the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of its various artists. Towards this end, the Rwandan Development Board in collaboration with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) organized a sub-regional workshop on intellectual property rights as they relate to access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge systems in ARIPO member states. The workshop was held in in Kigali on 29 and 30 September 2015.
Intellectual Property experts from Burundi, Kenya, Liberia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe participated at the workshop. Speaking at the conference, Emmanuel Hategeka, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and industry, said the government would work with artists, inventors, researchers and authors, to encourage them in registering and protecting their inventions
Kifle Shenkoru, the Director at WIPO in charge of division for least developed countries, commended Rwanda’s existing policy on Intellectual Property. He said the policy would boost economic growth and the development of the country. "We have to educate people so that the Intellectual Property becomes a learning process. Information on patent rights has not been adequately exploited by Rwandans and as long as awareness continues to be low, patent information or development which is of one the sources of technology will slow down capacity building," said Shenkoru.
Government officials expressed concerns over failure to own entirely home-grown innovations or solutions which can be easily distorted or stolen by fraudsters. This comes a few years after the Rwandan government enacted the law on intellectual property; initially praised and highly welcomed by artists whose works were the subject of piracy.
Currently, Rwanda hosts the Technology Information Support Centre (TISC), which is a programme of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Japan Patent office (JPO). This centre is designed to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and to assist innovators, research centres, academia and SMEs to access and use technology information for innovation. Rwanda has also established the Rwanda Society of Authors (RSAU), which is a collective management organisation representing and acting on behalf of copyright owners. It is responsible for collecting and receiving royalty fees from users (such as radio and TV stations) of copyright and related rights materials, and distributing the money to the rights’ owners.