Celebrating World IP Day 2024: Kenya’s Odyssey Towards Achieving SDG Goal 9

Celebrating World IP Day 2024: Kenya’s Odyssey Towards Achieving SDG Goal 9


In the year 2000, the World Intellectual Property Organization established the World IP Day and set it as an annual celebration on 26th April to celebrate all things IP.1 The purpose of the event was to raise awareness on how patents, copyrights, trademarks, and industrial designs impact daily life, and to celebrate the creativity of innovators and entrepreneurs all around the world who contribute to the development of economies and societies.2 This year’s theme of ‘IP and the SDGs: Building our common future with innovation and creativity’ aims to show how intellectual property encourages the innovation and creativity needed to accomplish sustainable development goals and create a better society.3 The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the global goals, constitute a universal call adopted by the United Nations in 2015 to tackle poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.4 The theme, therefore, seeks to show how IP and the SDGs share a vision of influencing innovation and creativity and how intellectual property rights can contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

The primary focus of this article is SDG 9 which is concerned with industry, innovation and infrastructure.5 A developed society and economy are determined by among other things the ability to innovate, the investments made in industry and infrastructure, and sustainable industrial practices.6 Goal 9 aims to come up with innovative technological advancements that accelerate industrialization and infrastructure which are critical to economic growth.7 In order to have sustainable growth, a robust industrialised system is required, and it has to not only offer accessible opportunities to people but also accommodate the rapidly shifting global economic landscape as well as existing and widening disparities.

Since the focus of the article is on Kenya, we’ll consider the varied customs, knowledge systems, and entrepreneurial spirit of the country, and how they inspire creativity and innovation. We’ll also examine both low-level and cutting-edge technologies, and how they overcome traditional infrastructural limitations, as well as the advancements made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 9.

Charting Kenya’s progress to SDG 9: Leveraging IP

As earlier mentioned, SDG 9’s three facets are industry, innovation, and infrastructure. In an economy, industry is the production of goods or related services, and innovation is a novel concept, technique, or apparatus8.On the other hand, infrastructure describes the fundamental services and facilities that a nation needs in order to run its economy.9 While industrialization boosts growth, lowers poverty, and speeds up economic expansion, innovation focuses on the creation of new technologies and skills for the industrial sector.10 Kenya has notably made commendable strides in the above facets in the furtherance of the country’s economic growth. Intellectual property plays an important role in enabling development since it incentivizes innovation by providing legal protection and financial rewards to innovators,11 but it can also be counterproductive since it hampers it by granting exclusive rights to the proprietor for a specific amount of time, and in sectors where access to essential goods and services is crucial for sustainable development like agriculture and pharmaceuticals, this poses a challenge.12

In Kenya, the applicable IPRs necessary to achieve SDG 9 are trademarks, industrial designs, patents, and copyrights. These rights are relevant in many industries including manufacturing, technology, and infrastructure development since they promote investment and innovation. Patents seek to protect technological innovations, while copyrights safeguard artistic, and literary works, although it occasionally protects technological works.13 Trademarks on the other hand protect specific logos, names, and symbols attached to a product or business brand while industrial designs seek to protect the unique design pattern of products.14

Kenya’s intellectual property rights are vested either in statutes or common law, and the nation has developed its IP laws and policies to encourage industrialization and innovation. For example, the nation recently updated its intellectual property laws to conform to the international standards including the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS),15 and the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (ARIPO) which empowers the granting of patents and registration on utility models and industrial designs on behalf of contracting states.16

On a local scale, intellectual property is protected in Article 40 (5) of the constitution which places a mandate on the government to support, promote, and protect Kenyans’ intellectual property rights,17 In addition to that, there is the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) which is a government parastatal that was established to consider applications for grant and registration of industrial property rights like patents, industrial designs, utility models and trademarks.18 It also screens technology transfer agreements and licences, provides industrial property information to the public, and promotes inventiveness and innovativeness in Kenya.19 Another state corporation is the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) whose mandate is the overall administration and enforcement of copyright and related rights.20 The board carries out public awareness, enforcement, registration of copyright, licensing of collective management organisation and education on matters relating to copyright.21 Both organisations are fundamental to the protection of intellectual property rights.

Kenya has leveraged intellectual property in technology and innovation, with the government supporting local innovators and entrepreneurs through the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KeNIA).22 KeNIA fosters collaborations among stakeholders to advance innovation and enterprise development stemming from research and ideas. Patents and other forms of intellectual property rights have encouraged inventors to keep their creations private, draw in funding, and market their concepts. For example, businesses like M-KOPA Solar, which created a pay-as-you-go solar energy system, have depended on patents to safeguard their innovations and grow their businesses, promoting the development of rural infrastructure and sustainable energy access.23

Securing Progress in the Innovation Ecosystem with Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights play a fundamental role in promoting economic growth and development. When innovations are protected, investors are incentivized to innovate since they are assured that the law will protect against copying or use of their trademarks and inventions without permission since the intellectual property rights assert overt ownership and authority over the proprietor.24 This is beneficial since it creates jobs and drives technological advancements. Kenya’s innovative ecosystem is thriving and as a result, it has fostered a number of start-ups, tech hubs and incubators. One notable example is M-PESA, a mobile money transfer service that has grown exponentially since its inception in 2007.25 Another example is the iCow app, which is a mobile platform that provides agricultural information to small holder farmers.26 These are just a few examples that have demonstrated the transformative power of innovation in addressing challenges. They offer solutions to other SDGs such as poverty reduction, sustainable agriculture, and reduced inequality while also highlighting the potential of Kenyan entrepreneurs to find long-lasting solutions for sustainable development.

In the case of other African countries, we can draw examples from South Africa’s patent law which was adopted with a vision of balancing the need for innovation with public interests. The South African Patents Act (No. 57 of 1978) provides for the registration and granting of letters patent for inventions.27 Other instances where intellectual property rights have aided innovative initiatives include Solar Sister, a social enterprise that empowers women to sell clean energy products such as solar lamps and clean cookstoves in rural communities thus addressing SDGs related to renewable energy, gender equality, and economic empowerment.28 There is also the ‘Flying Labs Network’, which is a network of flying robot experts that utilise drone technology to deal with disaster risk management, agriculture, environment conservation, development and planning.29

Although intellectual property rights foster innovation and tackle global issues, critics caution that these rights can concentrate profits, creating ‘intellectual monopolies’ and exacerbating economic inequality. For example, considering the case of M-PESA, there has been a growing ecosystem of other independent mobile money operators and competitors, but none has been able to shake M-PESA since it has essentially grown into a monopoly.30 A balance has to be drawn between innovation and inequality. Despite the role intellectual property plays in promoting innovation, it also has the potential to hinder it. It can potentially cause information access barriers since patents, copyrights and trademarks can block the creation of new ideas and inventions.31 In addition, legal restrictions on the use and diffusion of scientific knowledge may cause delays in access to important medicines.32 There is also the risk of stifled expression and creativity due to the enforcement of copyright laws that restrict the appropriation of copyrighted works thus impeding on the growth of derivative art.33


In conclusion, Kenya has made impressive progress in the utilisation of intellectual property rights to aid in innovation and industrialization to promote the sustainable development goals. Kenya is home to a thriving innovative and creative ecosystem that has been very influential to entrepreneurs that have come up with innovative solutions to existing problems in the country. In addition to local statutes, constitutional provisions, and parastatals that have been established to protect intellectual property rights, Kenya has also adhered to international norms and standards like the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which demonstrates the country’s willingness to promote innovation in the region. However, there are still existing gaps that the laws and policies have not been able to fill, and this has caused various challenges in the innovative and economic sector like monopolisation of some industries, and a stifling of creativity and new inventions. This does not mean that the country will not be able to accomplish development, but it only serves to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship to ensure that the global sustainable agenda is attained.


Image is from easy-peasy.ai

1 WIPO, ‘World Intellectual Property Day’, <https://www.wipo.int/web/ipday#:~:text=About%20World%20IP%20Day,increasing%20general%20understanding%20of%20IP.>, accessed on 4th April 2024.

2 WIPO, ‘World Intellectual Property Day’, <https://www.wipo.int/web/ipday#:~:text=About%20World%20IP%20Day,increasing%20general%20understanding%20of%20IP.>, accessed on 4th April 2024.

3 WIPO, ‘World Intellectual Property Day’, <https://www.wipo.int/web/ipday#:~:text=About%20World%20IP%20Day,increasing%20general%20understanding%20of%20IP.>, accessed on 4th April 2024.

4 United Nations Development Programme, ‘The SDGS in Action’, <https://www.undp.org/sustainable-development-goals>, accessed on April 6th 2024.

5 UNOOSA, ‘Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure’, <https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/space4sdgs/sdg9.html>, accessed on 4th April 2024.

6 Close the Gap Foundation, ‘Why Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure is Important’, <https://www.closethegapfoundation.org/glossary/industry-innovation-and-infrastructure#:~:text=By%20investing%20in%20industries%20and,fostering%20economic%20resilience%20and%20prosperity.>accessed on 6th April 2024.

7 Sustainable Development Goals, ‘Goal 9: Build Resilient Infrastructure, Promote Sustainable Industrialization and Foster Innovation’, <https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/infrastructure-industrialization/#:~:text=Goal%209%20seeks%20to%20build,industrial%20development%20and%20technological%20progress>, accessed on 6th April 2024.

8 UNESCO, ‘SDG Resources for Educators: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure’, <https://www.unesco.org/en/sustainable-development/education>, accessed on 15th April 2024.

9 UNESCO, ‘SDG Resources for Educators: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure’, <https://www.unesco.org/en/sustainable-development/education>, accessed on 15th April 2024.

10 UNOOSA, Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, <https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/space4sdgs/sdg9.html>, accessed 4 April 2024.

11 Part I, The Intellectual Property Bill, 2020.

12 Part VI, The Intellectual Property Bill, 2020.

14 Ibid.

15 WIPO, ‘Strengthening Kenya’s IP Landscape’, <https://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2016/04/article_0007.html>,

17 Constitution of Kenya (2010).

19 Section 5, The Industrial Property Act, 2010.

20 Kenya Copyright Board, <https://copyright.go.ke/>, accessed on 10th April 2024.

21 Kenya Copyright Board, <https://copyright.go.ke/>, accessed on 10th April 2024.

24 Part VI, The Intellectual Property Bill, 2020.

26 iCow Kenya, <https://icow.co.ke/>, accessed on 6th April 2024.

27 WIPO, ‘Patents Act 1978, <https://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/legislation/details/4078>, accessed on 15th April 2024.

28 Solar Sister, <https://solarsister.org/>, accessed on 11th April 2024.

29 Flying Labs, <https://flyinglabs.org/>, accessed on 11th April 2024.

30 Foster, C. (2024). Intellectual property rights and control in the digital economy: Examining the expansion of M-Pesa. The Information Society, 40(1), 1–17, <https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2023.2259895.>, accessed on 15th April 2024.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked