December 2008. Bob was invited back to Africa by the World Intellectual Property Organization, a division of the United Nations, as an expert patent-drafting instructor for a second patent-drafting workshop for participants from English-speaking African countries, including Ethiopia, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Participants included attorneys, patent examiners, engineers and scientists from these countries.
As in Zimbabwe, Bob again believes he learned and gained as much as did the participants. In particular, the opportunity to engage with brilliant people with different perspectives on patent rights proved stimulating and enlightening. Moreover, the participants' commitment and drive to learn patent drafting to promote the commercial advantage of innovation from their countries proved very inspiring. Again, Bob felt highly honored to take part.
Ethiopia was intriguing. Though abject poverty is evident in the streets, it is balanced with business people in suits and dresses. Moreover, scientific and technical innovation exists in Ethiopia, as elsewhere. The association of Ethiopia with mass starvation is, at best, a very incomplete and unfortunate view of the country. With a history essentially free of European colonization, powerful emperors (Menelik and Haile Selassie) and an unfortunate stretch of communism in the '70's and '80's, along with the roots of humanity (such as "Lucy") and a culture that seems more closely tied to the Arab world than to African states to the south, Ethiopia is truly unique. Of course, I enjoyed the coffee, as well.
Click on the photos in the slideshow, below, for captions.