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A celebration of Francophone Africa’s innovators

28 July 2023 

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Left to right: Ange Frederick Balma (prize winner) and Gabriel Pecquet (EPO)

A delegation from the European Patent Office (EPO) has attended this year’s Salon Africain de l’Invention et de l’Entreprise Innovante (SAIIT), a major biennial forum for Francophone Africa’s innovators held by the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI). The ninth edition of the forum took place from 24 to 26 July in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

This year’s event provided an opportunity for the EPO to present the PATLIB network of patent information centres, as well as the Knowledge Transfer to Africa (KT2A) initiative, which aims to disseminate the experience and expertise of the PATLIB network among selected universities throughout Africa.


Deepening sustainable collaboration across continents

With the KT2A initiative, the EPO intends to help foster innovation and technology transfer at African universities in close co-operation with regional and national IP offices. The initiative complements synergies developed during the long-term preparations for OAPI to join the EPO’s validation system, which provides a basis for closer co-operation between the EPO and non-member states.

The EPO’s presentation at SAIIT, delivered together with PATLIB staff connecting online from two patent information centres, focussed on best practices in collaborative projects with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and universities in Europe. Further participants at SAIIT included representatives of the European Union’s international co-operation project on intellectual property AfrIPI, France’s national office INPI, the Moroccan Office of Industrial and Commercial Property (OMPIC) and the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO). They joined OAPI members and Ivory Coast officials at the conference as well as other activities in the SAIIT programme, underlining the event’s importance as a platform for international exchange and collaboration between inventors, researchers, economic operators and other stakeholders.


Rewarding sustainable innovation

The event concluded with an award ceremony that gave special recognition to leading innovators from OAPI’s 17 members states, selected by an international jury of experts from OMPIC, the EPO and OAPI.

The EPO’s prize for innovation in the service of sustainable development went to Ange Frederick Balma of the Ivory Coast, in recognition of his use of light fidelity (Li-Fi) technology, solar energy and satellite internet to bring electric light and internet access to remote African villages. Balma is the founder of the company LIFI-LED, a leader in the field in the inventor’s home country. This was the second EPO award to be presented to an African inventor this month, after Maasai entrepreneur Richard Turere received the 2023 Young Inventors Prize at the European Inventor Award ceremony in Valencia, for his innovative light system designed to protect livestock from lion attacks.


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