Decolonization

Policy Brief 99, August 2021

The TRIPS COVID-19 Waiver, Challenges for Africa and Decolonizing Intellectual Property

By Yousuf Vawda

The intellectual property (IP) regimes of African countries are a function of their colonial past, which imposed strong protections, and which have been entrenched through the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). This has had a devastating effect on their ability to access necessary health products both before and during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to reflect on the challenges that African countries face, before considering the implications of the WTO TRIPS waiver on COVID-19 (henceforth, waiver). In assessing the challenges faced by these countries, as well as the possibilities of improving access, this paper argues that while the waiver offers the best available solution to overcome the current supply shortages of a range of COVID-19 health products, in the longer term a break from this past—the decolonization of IP regimes—is necessary.

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