Shikwati et al

James S. Shikwati‘s interview on Der Spiegel in July this year actually stirred up some debates over here – maybe also due to that nice but useless Live8 event that took place during that time.
Just two days ago, I came accross this interesting paper Shikwati presented in November 2003 on a workshop called "Campaigning for Free Trade", organised by the Liberal Institute of the Friedrich Nauman Foundation. In this paper, Shikwati gives a summarized overview on what Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are (Patent, Trademark, Copyright, etc.) and what kind of effect they have on Development in Africa (of course, from his point of view – as liberal as it is). He concludes that "Africa must urgently seize this opportunity of protecting intellectual property (…) to attract more investment".
And the reason I am mentioning all this: Ory‘s covering of the Poptech event as well as her mentioning of the XPrize competition and FabLab make me believe that there are some people out there that do not necessarily just do what the mainstream does (~following guidelines) but who see a real possibility and know that change – and I am not talking about Africa only – will depend on people and not on governments. That we (you, me, everyone) can change a lot and that all those helpful tools are already here – we just need to pick them up and use them.
I just want to get away from this position that there might be "others" on top of us that will tell us or even know what’s good for us if, after all, we all know what governments are capable of doing and even worse what they are not. I think it is about time for us to start our own reasonable projects that will put the people, the beneficiaries, in the focus and give them the knowledge to advance. Be it in a technological or social sense.

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  1. This is powerful stuff. Just the interview itself carries a punch. I wonder if the western world will really understand that what Africa truly needs is trade not aid.