The African continent is a largely untapped market. With 54 countries and an estimated over 1.366 billion inhabitants (16.72% of the world population), Africa presents a valuable target for small businesses and large corporations alike.
The countries of Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa are currently considered the largest markets in Africa. Nigeria has a population size of over 210 million. Egypt has a population of over 102 million and has strong trade ties with Europe and Asia. South Africa has a population of over 59 million and has a vastly diverse economy.
Mauritius, with a population of only 1.26 million, is also regarded as a top-performing country, having been able to implement major economic reforms to drive economic growth. In July 2020, Mauritius became a “High-Income Economy”, as defined by the World Bank. Reforms contributing to the growth in Mauritius include the major reduction in the number of days needed to start a business, improving data portals with other African countries, and the rapid implementation of legislative reforms.
It is clear that African countries worth investing in are those who have adopted market-friendly policies. Many countries have privatized state-owned enterprises, lightened trade barriers, reduced corporate taxes and strengthened regulatory and legal systems. Nigeria, for example, privatized more than 116 enterprises between 1999 and 2006. Morocco and Egypt now have free-trade agreements with their main export partners. Rwanda has established courts specifically to settle business disputes. These trends make African countries appealing to foreign investment and business.
An effective way of protecting a company’s intellectual property (IP) in the countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, is by filing a regional application through the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO). As of December 2020, this regional application covers 20 member states: Botswana, Eswatini, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
An effective way of protecting IP in the Francophone countries is with a regional application through the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI). The OAPI member states include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoros, the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, the Niger, Senegal and Togo.
Smit & Van Wyk can assist with identifying your market, determining an appropriate filing strategy and obtaining intellectual property protection across the African continent. * Statistics according to Worldometer in April 2021.