If you have never filed a patent in Africa, you might hold the same preconception as many investors who have never invested in Africa. Namely, why on earth would I want to invest in Africa? According to Ernst and Young’s 2014 Africa Attractiveness Survey, the common preconception amongst investors who have never invested in Africa is that Africa is the least favourable continent to invest in. However, before we throw in the towel on Africa, why not base our preconceptions on the word that comes straight from the horse’s mouth? Those who are already investing in Africa rate it as their absolute favourite investment destination!
Africa’s political situation is often too volatile for one’s liking. However, the political stability in emerging potential investment countries is constantly on the rise with the public taking a stand and seeking democracy, seeking a voice, and seeking a brighter future. South Africa holds the fortunate position of being the top FDI destination in Africa, but Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia are hot on our tails! Why am I stressing investment, you may ask? For the simple reason that with investment comes growth, and with growth comes a slow but steady increase in consumption and expenditure, and increase in standards of living and medical treatment availability. Patents target the end goal of Return on Investment; and as investment increases, so do the number of patents being filed. In South Africa alone, the number of patents filed has almost tripled in the period of 1999- 2013, according to WIPO. As depicted by the graph below, the filing of patent is on a steady rise in South Africa.
The tell-tail signs of improvement in Africa are appearing. Investment is shifting away from extractive industries to consumer facing sectors. Africans are increasingly investing in Africa rather than abroad. If we believe in ourselves, why should you not? If investment is moving towards consumer-facing industries, this allows for the potential ROI to be higher for a more diverse range of patents. No longer should you only consider filing patents in Africa for mining equipment or medicine. Now you can follow in the footsteps of the Ferdinand Chauvier who invented the Kreepy Krauly; and target the consumer market as well and diversify your patent portfolio, with a high possibility of gaining substantial returns.
During a trip to Mozambique in Early January 2015, we were astounded by the amount of houses using solar panels. Almost every clay hut and shanty bar has at least two. If solar technology is already so widely accepted and sought after in a country that is still battling the aftermath of a severe civil war, what is the potential for other green technologies? I believe the potential is overwhelming! Africa is in a unique position whereby it can still choose to adopt solar power over conventional power- especially because conventional coal power is so often unstable. Why not grab at the opportunity to provide a market of over one billion people with the goods they so desperately need?!
Africa needs the world to invest in it, and to invent for it. Filing patents that protect inventions that cater to those who simply want an invention is profitable. But imagine the potential of patenting the invention that a portion of 1 billion people need. Rather than believing that the lack of infrastructure, for example, is a hindrance and set-back to the potential for a patent to be of any worth; we need to look forward and turn the lack of infrastructure to our advantage and file patents that would help build a better and more sustainable infrastructure. The possibility of being a part of the Afro-evolution and being able to aid in paving the way to a better continent, a better market, a better long-term investment destination is at your fingertips. Hence, I ask you, why on earth would you not want to invest in Africa?