Over time, the issue of whether and how to protect traditional knowledge of indigenous people has attracted increasing attention in most jurisdictions. This is after the realisation that Traditional knowledge can be used as wealth creation tool.
This has prompted an increasing interest in matters of law and policy in relation to traditional knowledge at national, regional and international level, particularly in biological resources and cultural merchandises.
This may be attributed to among other things evidence of increased commercial exploitation of traditional knowledge in agriculture, pharmaceutical industry and creative industries.
There have been numerous instances of third parties misappropriating traditional knowledge and in some instances to the detriment of the peoples from whom the knowledge originates.
Traditional knowledge (TK) refers to the information that people in a given community, based on experience and adaptation to a local culture and environment, have developed over time, and continues to develop.
This knowledge is used to sustain the community and its culture and to maintain the genetic resources necessary for the continued survival of the community. TK includes mental inventories of local biological resources, animal breeds, and local plant, crop and tree species.
It may include such information as trees and plants that grow well together, and indicator plants, such as plants that show the soil salinity or that are known to flower at the beginning of the rains.
It includes practices and technologies, such as seed treatment and storage methods and tools used for planting and harvesting.
A good example of TK is the knowledge of making the kiondo which has been passed down from generation to generation.
With adequate legislation such knowledge could be protected as valuable TK.
The kiondo was not ‘stolen’ as is widely believed. Kenyans have simply failed to commercialize the Kiondo either as a patent product or even as a design.
However, even if Kenya had filed a patent in respect of the kiondo, the life of the patent under the law would be only 20 years non-renewable.
After this period, the patent falls into the public domain and can be freely used, adapted and copied by others.For a long time, there was no law governing traditional knowledge in Kenya. The Kenyan constitution provided the constitutional basis for this but there have been implementation gaps that still needed to be filled.
At national level, in 2016 Kenya passed the Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expression Act. The Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) played a leading role in advocating protection of TK and TCE.
At regional level, the ARIPO member states passed the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions in 2010. Policy objectives of the national and regional laws are similar and mainly seek to ensure that traditional knowledge is protected against misappropriation by third parties for commercial purposes and to ensure that indigenous/local communities have control over their traditional knowledge. There is still no agreed international law that aims at protecting TK and TCE.
However concerted efforts have been underway to have an international instrument at different international fora including WIPO through the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional knowledge and Folklore since 2000
The protection of TK is in tandem with Kenya’s “Vision 2030” blueprint that aims at moving Kenya to a middle-income economy by the year 2030 through wealth creation, increased trade and national development.
The use of traditional cultural materials as a source of contemporary creativity can contribute towards the economic development of traditional communities, through the establishment of community enterprises, local job creation, skills development, appropriate tourism, and foreign earnings from community products.
By providing legal protection for traditional-based creativity, communities can easily commercialize their traditional-based creations. The marketing of artisan products also represents a way for communities to show and strengthen their cultural identity and contribute to cultural diversity.
Paul Kaindo, advocate and a legal counsel at Kenya Copyright Board.
Kenya to import mitumba after coronavirus pandemic
Kenya is set to lift the ban on imports of second-hand clothes once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, the Industry, Trade and Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina has said.
The Cabinet Secretary last Wednesday announced an immediate temporary suspension of the importation of second-hand clothes as a measure to stop importing the SARs-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19 disease.
Ms Maina said the action taken is in line with the conditions as set out by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).
“The government has suspended importation of second-hand clothes with immediate effect to safeguard the health of Kenyans and promote local textiles in the wake of coronavirus,” said Ms Maina.
“Most of the Mitumba imports come from China and Pakistan, countries which are the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision is intended to safeguard Kenyans against the spreading of the coronavirus and is therefore a health issue,” she said.
In an interview with the The EastAfrican, Ms Maina said the Kebs will enforce the suspension as we wait for the situation to improve.
“It is a requirement by the Kebs to take such an action in times of an epidemic like the Covid-19,” she said.
A recent study by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the virus can stay longer on different surfaces, including clothes.
Ms Maina, however, said the temporary ban will not in any way affect the policy on Mitumba imports from the US.
Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, Kenya sold about Ksh40 billion ($400m) worth of textiles and clothing to the US.
“This does not in any way affect our policy on our imports from the US. The decision is strictly an urgent measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus,” added Ms Maina.
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.