Linking people, land and unique products to reduce inequalities

Using Geographical Indications to raise the income of the poorest communities in Africa and Least Developed Countries

Large Debate
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
18:45 to 20:00
  • How can intellectual property tools such as Geographical Indications (GIs) be used to address inequalities between countries by supporting the integration of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in global value chains?
  • How can rural development through GIs contribute to reducing inequalities within countries ?
  • What are the critical institutional and technical factors of success and failure in developing a trade and entrepreneurial development strategy for using GIs to promote products from LDCs?
  • How can GIs in LDCs  be a viable initiative to address the challenges arising from the rural exodus.
  • How best to design supporting policies related to direct and indirect impacts of GIs on income and inequalities?
  • How can the interplay between GIs and development policies support the start-up of local initiatives based on origin-linked products?

Key points

  • Geographical indications (GIs) can raise the income of the poorest communities in Africa and Least Developed Countries.
  • GIs add value to products, offer intellectual property (IP) protection, bring economic benefits, create jobs and ultimately reduce inequalities.
  • There are three GIs registered in the entire African Union. There are 6,000 in France.
  • Investment is required yet public awareness of GIs is lacking in the African Union.
  • More EU and international investment in GIs is critical.


A geographical indication or GI is a distinctive sign used to identify a product whose quality, reputation or other characteristic is linked to its geographical origin. This session looked at how GIs have the potential to raise the income of the poorest communities in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Usually only IP specialists understand GIs, but it is clear that these indications can significantly strengthen the economies of developing countries and more awareness of them is needed. The example of Italian Parmesan cheese was given, which has had an extremely positive impact on Italy’s economy. African countries have a huge biodiversity and should therefore also exploit GIs for their own economic benefit. GIs add value to the products themselves, offer intellectual property (IP) protection, bring economic benefits, and create jobs. There are also sociocultural benefits such as tourism to the area where the product originates. But there needs to be consumer demand, investment is required and marketing is critical. Despite efforts since 2009, there are still no GIs in Benin and only three in the entire African Union. Holding one takes considerable investment in research and development as well as a collective dedication from producers, which has been lacking. Moreover, people are confused about what the concept actually means, so there needs to be a clearer definition relayed to the public. GIs are today not seen as a priority. Nevertheless, Africa is home to a lot of products with links to tradition, culture and biodiversity. Tapping in to this potential would boost rural development; promote local culture, protect the environment, and combat counterfeiting. Examples of successful GI’s in Africa include Cameroon Penja pepper, of which 40% is exported and which has seen production increasing threefold in four years. Other products like the White Honey of Oku and Café Ziama Macenta of Guinea tell a similar story. Several countries in Africa have the will to set up a GI system, but there is no accurate database of potential GI products, the legal framework is incomplete, coupled with a lack of synergy among IP offices, trade ministers and cooperatives. Niger is an exception and progress is being made on a number of products including cheese from Niamey, which should soon achieve the coveted GI status. It was agreed that there is a need for more funding from the EU and international community to make progress.


There should be a website with examples of GIs or potential GIs across the African Union, which would create awareness and inspire other players to become involved.

Organised by


Stefano Inama
Chief, Technical Cooperation and Enhanced Integrated Framework, Africa and Least Developed Countries Division
UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development)
Euloge Vidégla
Secrétaire Permanent
Ministère de l'Agriculture, de l'Elevage et de la Pêche Bénin
Isabelle Durant
Deputy Secretary-General
United Nations Conference on Trade
Pierre Claver Runiga
Head of Policy, Legal and International Cooperation Department
African Regional Intellectual Property Organization
Maimouna Soumaye EP A Zene
Transformatrice de fromage, Niamey
Fromagerie Niamey
Ousman Abdou
Ministry of Agriculture, Niger