Licensed or Rented Knowledge and African Development


Licensed knowledge in Africa (knowledge used against royalty payments) is hardly used and concentrated in few sectors and few countries (particularly RSA – the knowledge hub of Africa). This very low level of utilization reflects the low capacity of the continent to use this kind of knowledge for its development. Industrializing countries generally make extensive use of licensed and franchised knowledge. Not using this knowledge forecloses important knowledge sources for development. In addition, African countries are generally reluctant for non-economic reasons to pay royalties for knowledge. Knowledge, in some cases, is just a commodity that can be rented for production purposes.


If renting knowledge is profitable then there should not be any reticence of doing business with this knowledge. Policies towards rented knowledge should be open and realistic. It should not be defined by prejudices and ideologies. In the 1970s, African countries promoted the idea of an international code of conduct for technology transfer limiting the percentage of royalties to be paid for the use of the knowledge associated with the technology. This approach did not succeed because these royalty payments must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in business negotiations.


Scientific knowledge is increasingly required for understanding, developing and managing terribly complex human-environment systems, such as infinitely intricate African systems, which are embedded in a highly unbalanced, unjust and unsustainable larger global system. And technical and technological knowledge, including business knowledge, is needed for addressing the acute environment, poverty, hunger, health and unemployment nexus of crises that immobilizes large parts of the African region.


Licensed or rented knowledge may be required for addressing these crises.