Africa IP SME Help desk: Promoting Economic Growth In Europe, Africa

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The Africa IP SME Helpdesk is established to advance mutual cooperation between EU SMEs and African countries in matters of trade. The Helpdesk’s main objective is to contribute to sustainable development and economic growth in Africa while fostering new economic frontiers for EU businesses.

Inaugurated in Rome on October 21, 2021 during the EU-Africa SME Summit, the Helpdesk works with relevant IP Agencies and Organisations to create a mutually beneficial economic ecosystem between the EU and African States, by promoting bilateral cooperation in addressing intellectual property issues. It is part of the Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation Project in Africa (AfrIPI) – an international cooperation project funded by the EU and implemented by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

Economic indices have shown that the EU and its Member States constitute the most important trading partner for Africa. In 2021, EU exports of goods to Africa increased to EUR 288 billion from a low value of EUR 225 billion in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the largest exporters of goods to Africa in 2021 were France (€ 24 billion), Germany (€ 23 billion), Spain and Italy (both € 18 billion), the Netherlands (€ 17 billion) and Belgium (€ 16 billion). About 68% of the exports were manufactured goods.

Accordingly, the Africa IP SME Helpdesk supports European SMEs operating in, or intending to access the African market, to protect and enforce their Intellectual Property rights by providing free information, services and training to boost their capacity for global competitiveness. This is also in line with the objectives of the recent African Continental Free Trade Area which aims to eliminate barriers to trade in the region.

The Helpdesk has assisted more than 500 EU SMEs and produced numerous country factsheets, case studies, guides and training materials on the protection of IP rights in Africa, which are freely accessible on the Helpdesk website. It also established a dedicated helpline provides expert advice to businesses in five languages: English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

As part of its advocacy engagements to raise awareness, the Help Desk participated in the 8th EU-Nigeria Business Forum recently held in Lagos under the theme, ‘Nigeria and the New Economy’. At the Forum, Help Desk Intellectual Property expert, Nta Ekpiken, was present and gave one-on-one consultations exclusively to EU SMEs on protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights in Nigeria.

European SMEs intending to operate or already operating in the African market are thus encouraged to contact the Africa IP SME Helpdesk to benefit from its free, professional, confidential and customized services covering the full spectrum of Intellectual Property concerns including copyrights, royalties, reciprocal agreements, patents, trademarks, designs, registrations and regulatory compliance issues.

The Helpdesk can be reached via email on africa.iphelpdesk@euipo.europa.eu and on telephone, +34 96 513 9810. Its operational hours are 8:30 to 18:30 (CET/CEST), Monday to Friday.

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