The African Union has unanimously endorsed a Ghanaian, Dr Edward Kwakwa, as the sole African candidate for the position of Director General of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
The decision was taken at a late-night meeting during the recent summit of the AU in Addis Ababa.
The 83-member WIPO Coordination Committee is to meet on March 5 and 6, to nominate a candidate for appointment as Director General by the Organisation’s General Assembly scheduled for May 7 and 8.
Initially, the names of 10 candidates were submitted but four – from Argentina, Estonia, Japan and Nigeria – have pulled out of the race.
Dr Kwakwa starts with a block vote of the 19 African members of the Coordination Committee, which would decide who would become the next Director General to take office from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2026.
Ghana has been a member of WIPO since June 1976 and is party to several other treaties administered by the organisation.
Dr Kwakwa is currently a Senior Director in charge of the Department for Traditional Knowledge and Global Challenges at WIPO.
It oversees the negotiations that take place at the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.
The department also addresses how global issues such as climate change, public health, and food security affect innovation and intellectual property (IP).
Dr Kwakwa was WIPO’s Legal Counsel from 2004 to 2016, and served in the Office of Legal Counsel for almost 20 years.
Over that period, he provided legal advice to the African Group of countries, including at several diplomatic conferences.
He has continued to engage closely with African countries in his current position.
Dr Kwakwa served as WIPO’s General Counsel for 13 years.
Having also served on the senior management teams of the organisation, he gained extensive managerial experience and has acquired a strong knowledge of WIPO’s legal, constitutional and administrative system. Dr Kwakwa has a strong background in IP and public international law.
After graduating from the University of Ghana with a law degree, he pursued a master’s degree in international law at Queen’s University in Canada.
He subsequently received a master’s and a doctorate at Yale Law School in the US.
Prior to his 23-year tenure at WIPO, Dr Kwakwa was in legal practice with a Washington, DC-based law firm.
He went on to provide legal advice for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), both in Geneva.
WIPO is a self-funding UN agency composed of 192 member states.
It serves as the global forum that promotes innovation and creativity for the economic, social and cultural development of all countries through a balanced and effective international intellectual property system.