The theme for this year’s World Intellectual Property Day is IP and Youth: Innovation for a Better Future. This theme draws attention to the place of the youth population as major players in the intellectual property (IP) ecosystem and their strategic position in achieving a better future for humanity through innovation and creativity.

Nigeria is fortunate to have a very talented, innovative and energetic youth population that has excelled in virtually all spheres of endeavours.

With a demographic profile in which 50 per cent is below 19 years old and about 17 per cent is between 15 and 35, Nigeria has a strong and fast-growing youth population which, if properly harnessed, would guarantee the nation’s enduring strength and secured future. As we mark this year’s World IP Day, therefore, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) salutes the country’s youth as major drivers of its creative and innovation sectors.

Most young persons are concerned about the happenings around them and are often driven by altruistic motives and a desire to bring about positive change to their environment. They strive to address unmet needs; they are able to survive extreme conditions, willing to face challenges and seize opportunities where the older population is constrained by their aversion for risks. Incidentally, as experience in this part of the world has shown, their entrepreneurial success could be in spite of social backgrounds, financial constraints, market barriers or low level of education. Innovation and creativity could be a panacea to the involvement of youth in social vices, help solve the rural-urban drift, encourage more youth to contribute to the development of their communities, thereby lifting many out of poverty and making them nation builders and agents of sustainable development.

The success of the Nigerian youth has been phenomenal in the copyright sector. Whether it is BurnaBoy, Whizkid or Davido in the field of music or Njideka Akunyili Crosby or Toyin Ojih Odutola in the area of visual art, these creative young persons are leaving their marks on the international scene. A recent global report shows Nigeria amongst the top five African countries having the most developed startup ecosystem while Lagos was named as the number one startup city in Africa. The country also has the highest number of ranked cities in Africa. This again confirms the potentials that exist in all parts of the country, thanks to a vibrant, ingenious and resilient youth population.

In order to help these young persons turn their raw talents to protected innovations and creativity, it is important that they understand the technology, the business and the legal framework, especially the benefits of the intellectual property system. They must imbibe a culture of respect for the rights of others, use the IP system as a catalyst for growth and enforce their rights against predators.

In furtherance of the initiatives introduced during the 2021 World IP Day celebration, the Commission has sustained its campaign to help SMEs use the IP system as a vehicle for taking their ideas to market. To this end, it will continue to encourage the youth population to establish innovation and creativity hubs in order to harness opportunities and leverage available mentoring and peer support facilities.

To promote the creation and sustainable use of IP in Nigerian Universities, the Nigerian Copyright Commission, in collaboration with the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU), the National Universities Commission and the National Office of Technology Acquisition and Promotion, has developed a Model IP Policy for Nigerian Universities. The policy, which would later be adapted for other tertiary and research institutions, should guide institutions, students and researchers on the sustainable use of intellectual property.

Investing in the creative and innovative potentials of the youth creates a nexus between the latter and the larger society. It gives them a sense of belonging and renewed faith in our common future as a people. This is important for societal harmony, patriotism and the building of a youth population that is not afraid to face its future. To this end, school curricula should be made to include activities that focus on creativity and innovation so that students at a very young age can discover their talents and realise their potentials.

Once again, in the spirit of this year’s World IP Day celebration, I implore all young people to freely explore their creative and innovative world to make a difference in their generation and guarantee a better future through a responsible use of the intellectual property system.

Dr. John O. Asein