Under one per cent of clean energy technology patents filed in Africa: UNEP

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Less than one per cent of all patent applications relating to clean energy technology (CET) have been filed in Africa, highlighting an opportunity for the continent to leapfrog existing fossil-fuel energy sources and thus cut greenhouse gas emissions and bring major health benefits.

A new study by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Patent Office (EPO)—”Patents and Clean Energy Technologies in Africa”—found that Africa has a huge untapped potential for generating clean energy, including enough hydroelectric power from its seven major river systems to serve the whole of the continent’s needs, as well as enormous potential for solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy etc. For example, hydropower, the most commonly used renewable energy source, is estimated to be utilized at just 4.3 per cent of the continent's total capacity.

The joint EPO-UNEP study is the first-ever representative stock-taking of clean energy technology patents in African countries," said EPO chief economist Nikolaus Thumm. "Its main purpose is to facilitate an informed debate on the role of patents in the dissemination of clean energy technologies in Africa."

The report found that of the 1 per cent of identified Clean Energy Technology-related patents filed in Africa, the majority came in South Africa, meaning there has been very little activity in the remaining African States.

Also, only 10 per cent of African inventors apply for patent protection in Africa; However, there are signs that the situation is changing. Despite low patent application numbers, the overall inventive activity in African countries grew by 5 per cent between 1980 and 2009, compared to 4 per cent at the global level. The report found that Africa's intellectual property system requires further development to better support the transfer of technology that can mitigate climate change.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’48″

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