By Motšelisi Sekonyela
The first mission for development of a National Intellectual Property (IP) Policy and Strategy (NIPPS) for Lesotho commenced on February 20 and is expected to come to an end on March 03. This mission is led by a team of experts from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Botswana.
The team arrived in Lesotho on February 17 as part of the technical assistance to Lesotho towards formulation of a NIPPS and ultimately strengthening the legislative framework for the protection of the IP. This follows a request by the government to WIPO.
The team of experts is in collaboration with the Registrar General’s office and the National Working Group to hold consultations with different stakeholders throughout the country with the aim of identifying and addressing issues that would ultimately be included in the NIPPS. Focus areas in this mission include policy, IP administration, IP generation, protection and commercialization, IP education, training and awareness, copyright-based and IP enforcement.
The media sector was engaged on February 24 as the key stakeholders in copyright-based industries to participate in these ongoing consultations.
Speaking at this workshop, Moeketsi Palime on behalf of the office of the Registrar General of the Ministry of Justice, Law and Parliamentary affairs said they did approach WIPO to assist with their knowledge and expertise in the development of this critical sector of the legislation.
The IP policy is aimed at protecting the work of artists and creatives in Lesotho and commercializing the industry in such a way that it adds to the Gross Domestic Population (GDP).
A WIPO consultant, Bathusi Lesolobe said the government had given their organization this assignment in 2022. Lesolobe said this was a three-part mission where the first phase was a desktop research on the existing state of the IP Policy in Lesotho.
The second phase was the consultations with different stakeholders across the country that include artists, media houses, publishing houses and various organizations that the Policy is being made for. The final consultation will be a multi-stakeholder workshop that will take two days with the purpose of validating the findings collected from the various consultation.
The third and final phase will come following the go-ahead by the multi-stakeholder for the Policy making process to commence. Should this be the case, the first draft of the IP Policy is expected to be finalized by the month of May
In presenting the findings from the research the team has done so far, Lesolobe said the report they have compiled shows that there is a lot of potential in the Arts and Culture industry of Lesotho. The industry is producing a lot of talented Basotho, some of whom are recognized internationally.
The report further shows that there are international treaties that Lesotho has not signed that would otherwise help the industry to develop better than it has. These treaties include the Beijing Treaty for the Protection of Audio and Visual Performances, the WIPO Copyright treaty as well as the Internet treaties.
When it comes to international laws that protect tradition knowledge and expressions of folklore, Lesotho has not yet signed the Swakopmund Protocol yet the country is a member of African Regional Intellectual Property Organization.
The Policy will be guided by the existing national policies and strategies that include the National Vision of Lesotho and the National Strategic Development Plan II of Lesotho.
In an attempt to find the economic contribution of this sector and how it contributes to the country’s GDP, the WIPO consultants could not find concrete evidence. However, pieces of information they found indicate that the creative sector contributes a lot in the national economy.
Lesolobe said there seems to be limitations on data collection, analysis and reporting in Lesotho on the creative industries hence it was hard for them to find such information as the economic contribution of the sector.
“It is not that this information does not exist. It is within the country’s institutions and within the creatives themselves, but unfortunately is is not being collectively packaged and distributed in such a way that it can make national statistics,” he said, urging creatives to better package their data in a scalable manner as this will be enough to convince government and the investors of the paramount importance of their sector.
A frustrated fashion designer, Motsamai Moloko said it is long overdue that the creative sector has laws and policies protecting it. He said the lack of this has made for creatives and artists to be exploited, and most have fled the country for greener pastures.