24 November 2016
On 5 December, the Administrative Council of the African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO) will meet to adopt the draft regulations to the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (“Arusha Protocol”). As the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, I would like to share my concerns with regard to the considerable negative impacts that the Protocol and its Draft Regulations may have in relation to fulfilling the right to food in ARIPO Member State countries.
It is my understanding that these draft regulations are aimed at facilitating the implementation of the Arusha Protocol, which will come into force twelve months after four States have deposited their instrument of ratification or accession. I further understand that the Arusha Protocol, adopted on 6 July 2015, is intended to provide a harmonized regional legal framework for the protection of plant breeders’ rights, and according to its Preamble seeks to provide Member States with a regional plant variety protection system to provide growers and farmers with improved varieties of plants in an effort to ensure sustainable agricultural production.
However, it has come to my attention that there is much concern amongst famers’ organisations and networks that the Protocol will negatively impact on the traditional practices of African farmers, in particular freely using, saving, exchanging and selling farm-saved seed and propagating material. These practises, which are the backbone of agricultural systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, have ensured access to and the maintenance of a diverse pool of genetic resources by farmers themselves. Such diversity is key to ensuring food security, long-term sustainability and providing farmers with resilience to natural disasters and the negative effects of climate change.
In February last year, the commercial court ordered MPs to pay taxes on their allowances and emoluments dating to 2004 following a petition by concerned citizen Francis Byamugisha who questioned the rationale of MPs not paying tax. The MPs run to court appealing the ruling which is yet to be heard.
East African Community partner states have been challenged to benchmark themselves with the world’s most advanced economies if they are to grow.
This was said by former EAC Secretary General, Mr Amanya Mushega, who said EAC needs to revisit and do away with the standard way of judging itself by sub-Saharan African standards.
“India, Singapore and South Africa refused to treat themselves that way. They aimed high, looked at the way the USA, Japan, Germany, UK and the USSR developed their human resources, copied them with the view to competing with them,” Mr Mushega said.
Mr Mushega was giving a keynote address during the opening of the two-day EAC-EU-IMF conference on regional integration on Monday in Arusha, Tanzania. The theme of the conference was ‘Regional Integration in the EAC: Making the most of the Common Market on the Road to a Monetary Union.’
Mr Mushega called for heavy investment in human resource development, and urged the Community to compare the number and quality of local skills with advanced economies.
“For EAC to develop, exploit its resources, build industries, not cutting and wrapping imported products for it to build and maintain roads, railways, airports and dams, compete in local and world markets, it must put maximum efforts on the quality of education and skills of its population,” he said.
Speaking at the forum, the director of the IMF’s African Department Mr Abebe Aemro Selassie, said the challenge for the EAC, as for other fast growing countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa, was how to sustain growth over the medium term, and how to ensure that scaled-up public investment and borrowing translates into durable growth.
In her remarks, Ms Jesca Eriyo, the EAC Deputy Secretary General, said the Community had made major progress in trade and finance.
The way forward
How. For EAC to develop, exploit its resources and build industries, it must put maximum efforts on the quality of education and skills of its population.