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The grift to undermine innovation… the new world disorder

Among the many disturbing developments since the advent of the politically manufactured crisis around the very real COVID-19 outbreak is the inexorable move towards undermining innovation, invention, and creativity in the private sector by a collection of “global leaders,” or cabal if you are a conspiracy theorist, to destroy international norms regarding the protection of intellectual property (IP), copyrights, and trademarks.  The instantaneous and hysterical reaction of global leaders to the B.1.1.529 variant (notice how we skipped right over the “xi” designation completely) makes this more obvious to even a casual observer.

Just one day after the United Kingdom and others began banning flights from southern Africa, the United States followed suit.  But poor, confused President Joe Biden not only blocked black Africans from traveling to the United States (does that make him a racist Speaker Pelosi?), but he also called for waivers on intellectual property.  And there we see what is really at work here.  For a collective that claims to be so rooted in science, this lot abandons it with aplomb at every turn.  Is the “science settled” for “Omicron?”  I hardly think so.  Epidemiologists have only just become aware of it, not determined its lethality or transmissibility, let alone the efficacy of existing vaccines, or even mapped its RNA.  Yet here is Joe Biden calling for the G-20 to collude and evaporate IP rights in the private sector.

Now why would President Biden call for IP waivers, given scientists have initially stated existing vaccines appear to be ineffective against this new variant of concern?  Releasing existing IP will not defeat Omicron, will it?  How exactly does undermining the incentive for the private sector to innovate improve anyone’s lot?  The short answer is that it simply does not.  While arrogant African intellectuals and political leaders have been busy for the past twenty months making the rounds demanding yet another cycle of debt relief and, more recently, latching onto South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “vaccine Apartheid” clarion call, leftists in the West have been actively seeking to collude and undermine the very system that made it possible to ram through development of vaccines in just seven months rather than the normal seven to twenty year pipeline.

The effort to undermine what has become a hallmark of innovation and advancement in the modern world, namely the regimen of protecting one’s creativity, innovation and research through copyright, IP and trademarks has long been under assault.  For decades China and other developing countries have committed industrial espionage, pirated and or made fake products, effectively stealing from the innovators who make the world a better, safer, more livable place for homo sapiens.  But now the assault comes not from cheating companies or countries, but from the very global leaders charged with maintaining order and the rule of law.  Why?  Guilt?  Stupidity?  A master plan to undermine market capitalism (something found in very few countries anyway)?  When Biden nominates a socialist who seeks to destroy the existing banking sector and force you to bank with the state for Comptroller of the Currency, it should hardly come as a surprise.  When a failed bartender, propped up by fawning corrupt media, thinks the unemployment rate is lower owing to people holding more than one job sits in the U.S. House of Representatives, we know we are in dangerous waters.

While Cyril Ramaphosa rants about fictional “vaccine Apartheid,” he ignores the reality that, while most vaccines are developed in the West, here in America virtually none are manufactured.  The vaccine business is simply not very profitable.  Few American companies bother making our vaccines or even everyday medicine.  It likely came as quite a shock in 2020 for most Americans to learn that simple every day medications pioneered in the United States like acetaminophen (Tylenol) are no longer even manufactured in America, but in China!  Low profit margins after intellectual property rights expire make it possible for generic drug manufacturers to undercut the companies that develop vaccines and medicines.  Innovative companies do not bother to duke it out with generics made in China, India or by Aspen Pharmacare in South Africa.  It is not worth the effort.  We get lifesaving vaccines and medications developed at incredible expense through extensive research and development by companies which risk all to win big.  Eviscerating intellectual property rights will not only discourage future drug development, but it will also discourage any company from developing vaccines for dangerous pathogens.

One need look no further than the clever Oppenheimer family in South Africa.  As diamond mining became less and less lucrative owing to a combination of factors like Russian market flooding, DeBeers’ loss of its hammerlock on Diamond sales, racist South African legislation on “BEE,” greedy governments demanding an ever-greater share of the profits like Gaborone with Debswana, the Oppenheimers eventually exited the business DeBeers created over a century ago.  It seems that diamonds are NOT forever, at least not for the Oppenheimers.  Like clever South Africans, the likes of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, and others will also move on to more lucrative sectors if Manchurian Joe and his lot win the day and take away their hard-earned intellectual property rights.

We should not be stunned to hear Ramaphosa, Strive Masiyiwa, Mo Ibrahim and Hage Geingob shout vaccine Apartheid to guilt gullible Western leaders into gifting tens of billions of dollars of research they were unwilling or incapable of spending.  Africa is far from a serious actor when it comes to protecting one’s IP.  African intellectuals herald the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as a great boon for the continent.  Yet, the agreement required only a minority of signatories (22 of 48 states) to go into effect.  When it went into effect the agreement lacked protocols on IP, copyright, or trademarks.  The African Union was due to present that in January 2020.  We are still awaiting those protocols.

Chris Wyatt

Chris Wyatt

Colonel (Ret) Chris Wyatt, the Principal & CEO of the Indaba Africa Group, is a retired U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa and past Director of African Studies at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was previously the Senior Military Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU). He has lived across the continent (eight countries) and working in over 30 African countries.

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