Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

H.E. Ambassador Dr. Walter Werner
513.   South Africa would like to thank the co-sponsors for putting this important item on the agenda. 514.   Like many developing countries, South Africa faces a great development problem relating to the high failure rate that is present among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This is due to the fact that entrepreneurs are not able to turn their businesses into sustainable ventures. SMEs play a significant role in a number of economic development issues that South Africa is facing as a nation. The SME sector has contributed immensely to job creation, poverty alleviation and assisting in the prosperity of the nation. 515.   South Africa has progressively shifted away from dependence on primary resource production and commodity-based industries to open up to international trade and to building capacity in some knowledge-intensive industries. However, the country's economic growth has remained weak by emerging-market standards, with GDP rising at 3.1% per year from 2000 to 2014. 516.   The National Development Plan (NDP) - A Vision for 2030 (2011-30) provides a general roadmap for South Africa's transition towards a diversified economy, with innovation underpinning almost every aspect and a strong focus given to strengthening human capital. The National R&D Strategy (2002 onwards) has planned for increasing public and private investment in the science base and improving the system of S&T governance. In parallel, the Ten-Year Innovation Plan (2008-2018) identified five areas of competitiveness to be developed, i.e. bio-economy (formerly pharmaceuticals), space, energy security, global change including climate change, and social and human dynamics. In that respect, the National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF) articulates South Africa's overarching approach to industrial development and innovation. 517.   Innovation is widely viewed as a driver of company competitiveness and, indeed, the economic growth of countries. The South African Government has approved Phase I of the National Intellectual Property Policy. It earmarks the IP Policy as one of the core elements needed to thrust South Africa toward a knowledge economy. This objective is the cornerstone of the Government's broader National Development Plan which includes a greater emphasis on innovation, improved productivity and better exploitation of comparative and competitive advantages. South Africa is also focusing on creating an enabling environment for businesses to operate. The 2018 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report (EDB) notes two areas of improvement in 2018. These include South Africa making starting a business easier by reducing the time for online business registration and the country improving the monitoring of electricity outages through recording data. 518.   There are various Government schemes that assist small businesses and start-ups. The IDC (Industrial Development Corporation), founded in 1940, is a state-owned finance institution. It functions as a means to generate balanced and sustainable growth in Africa. The IDC funds startups and existing businesses up to a maximum of ZAR 1 billion. The Small Enterprise Finance Agency was established in 2012 and has the mandate to foster establishment, survival and growth of SMMEs. They also aim to contribute to poverty alleviation and job creation. SEFA provides loans from ZAR 50 000 to ZAR 5 million to SMMEs and co-operatives. The Isivande Women's Fund specialises in start-up funding, business expansion, rehabilitation as well as financing. 519.   The IP Policy is aimed at promoting local manufacture, utilising and preserving the country's resources, encouraging innovation and empowering the domestic stakeholders to take advantage of the IP system. The IP Policy acknowledges that there is no automatic correlation between an increase in protection of IP and an increase in innovation. However, the South Africa Government believes a stronger framework is required to ensure that other objectives are met, including access to public health. South Africa regards the IP system as an important policy instrument to promote innovation, technology transfer, research and development and economic growth. However, the public understanding of benefits remains incomplete. In this regard, South Africa recently cohosted the High-Level Conference on Respect for Intellectual Property with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). More than 400 participants from a broad range of countries and sectors came together to discuss various IP issues ranging from the economic value of IP and its public value, to the practical challenges that face authorities when enforcing IP frameworks. 520.   As to some examples of start-ups, there are a good number of companies and start-ups in South Africa that would not just be classified as big but also innovative. South Africa has made a huge impact in science and technology. Several important scientific and technological developments originated from South Africa. An early internet security company started by Mark Shuttleworth was bought by VeriSign, while another South African born and educated entrepreneur, Elon Musk went on to found companies like Tesla Motors, PayPal and SpaceX.
The Council took note of the statements made.
50.   The Chair said that the item "Intellectual Property and Innovation: The Societal Value of IP in the New Economy – IP and New Business" had been put on the agenda at the written request by the delegations of Australia; the European Union; Japan; Switzerland; the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; and the United States of America. Since the circulation of the revised draft agenda, Brazil had co-sponsored the item. Those delegations had also submitted a communication on this topic (circulated in document IP/C/W/648 and addendum) to allow Members to prepare for the discussion.
51.   The representatives of the United States of America, Switzerland, Australia, Chile, Japan, the European Union, Norway, Brazil, Singapore, India, Chinese Taipei, Canada, China, South Africa and Colombia took the floor.
52.   The Council took note of the statements made.
IP/C/M/90, IP/C/M/90/Add.1