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AFRICA NOW: Masai People of East Africa Fight Against Cultural Appropriation

With luxury clothing lines such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton making significant gains with copyright and trademark signature patterns, the Maasai people, one of Kenya’s most powerful tribes, now look to also trademark their most traditional patterns in hopes of deflecting cultural appropriation.

As brightly lit catwalks and glossy magazines show, companies around the world have exploited the Maasai’s iconic cultural brand in an attempt to infuse an explosion of exoticism to their products and increase sales.

The key issue, however, is that the Maasai people have not been compensated for their art, “borrowed” by high retail clothing lines, according to Light Years IP, a D.C.-based nonprofit that works on international public-interest intellectual property issues.

As a result, another group known as the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative (MIPI) has been created to challenge companies referring to or copying the signature Maasai style without a licensing agreement, in hopes that, by forcing companies to obtain licences from the Maasai, reasonable funds can then be distributed to the people.

“Nearly 80 percent of the Maasai population in Kenya and Tanzania are living below the poverty line,” the website states. “Yet their distinctive and iconic cultural brand and intellectual property concepts have been used commercially around the globe.”

Georgetown University Holds African Business Conference

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, along with its African studies program, recently hosted a conference geared toward African development, themed “Time for Ownership: The Future of Business and Governance in Africa.”

Discussing the development of the music and film industries across the continent and the potential of commercialization of sports, the event hosted at the campus’s Rafik B. Hariri Building attracted business leaders and investors from across the globe.

Panel speakers included executives from Proctor & Gamble, Kosmos Energy, Lilium Capital, the World Bank and Nigerian singer Iyanya Mbuk.

Morocco Celebrates Readmission to African Union

Since King Mohammed VI’s 1999 ascension to the Moroccan throne, he has signed almost a thousand bilateral and multilateral agreements with other African countries.

Now, in an attempt to further generate positive relations with other African countries, King Mohammed re-enters Morocco into the African Union, much to the delight of Edward Gabriel, former American ambassador to Morocco.

Gabriel noted that Morocco is the second-largest investor in the continent and that its return to the African Union is “the natural outcome of King Mohammed VI’s tireless commitment to enhancing Morocco’s strong ties in Africa.”

“As Morocco claims its place as a major player in Africa, I hope that Western powers grappling with the same issues can recognize the deeper significance of this latest development: that with cooperation and unity comes strength,” Gabriel said.

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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