Jewelry industry

IP investment and the jewelry industry: an opportunity for economic growth in Africa


It is no secret that Africa is an important continent for the production of minerals and precious metals. Even so, despite an abundance of design creativity that is obvious to anyone walking down a street in Johannesburg or any other African city, very little precious metal and gemstone jewelry is made there. The wealth of local know-how and craftsmanship is unfortunately neglected in favor of purely material assets.

Walking through the streets of central Antwerp, a major diamond hub in Europe, and passing shop window after shop window of beautiful but expensive diamond jewellery, one cannot help but wonder why so little diamond jewelery diamonds are made on the continent where the vast majority of precious raw materials are mined. Given the abundance of talented designers and the strength of the precious metal mining sector in many African countries, it makes sense that jewelry production would develop there as a secondary industry. A larger African jewelry manufacturing and export industry could be sustainable with increased investment from various stakeholders, including local governments, the mining industry, and the jewelry world at large.

As an intellectual property (IP) lawyer, it is my view that an essential part of any such development initiative would be the generation and management of intellectual property assets, including the creation of brands of dynamic jewelry as trademarks and sources of licensing revenue. Another strategy could be to establish Geographical Indications (GIs) to associate jewelry made in a particular region with materials from the same region. We will examine relevant data on tangible and intangible assets to explore this market opportunity.

Production of precious metals, gemstones and jewelry in Africa

The African continent is a recognized source of precious metals, with South Africa and Ghana being among the top ten gold producing countries in the world. In terms of diamond production, six of the top ten countries are in Africa, namely South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.

Even though more than half of the world’s engagement rings use materials mined in Africa, there is not a single African country in the list of the top 15 jewelry manufacturing countries, which together account for more than 90% of world production.

Source: WIPO Intellectual Property Statistics Data Center.

Intellectual property in Africa

A similar room for expansion is evident in the area of ​​intellectual property since around 2% of global brands are registered in Africa and only about 1% of patents. However, the target jurisdiction of an IP filing is not the only indicator of the level of investment. Perhaps more relevant for our purpose is the measurement of intellectual property activity by origin, where the highest ranked African nation is South Africa, ranked 40th for trademarks and 41st for patents.

Developing the jewelry industry through investment in intellectual property

In my assessment, there is an opportunity for African jewelry manufacturers to further expand into global markets by cultivating their intellectual property assets, especially brand recognition. African states also have the opportunity to strengthen their local jewelery industries by providing supportive frameworks for companies to deepen and exploit their intellectual property.

Intellectual property plays a vital role in promoting a successful jewelry business. Much of the value of the world’s largest fashion and jewelry companies resides in their brands, legally protected by trademark portfolios. The brands used to market their jewelry products are significant financial assets due to high-end consumers who are willing to pay for a branded product. Underlying this phenomenon are strong marketing initiatives suggesting that a product with a particular brand name is worth more than a generic product.

The data source:

The aura of exclusivity generated by these marketing campaigns further increases demand and, therefore, perceived value. For the jewelry IP owner, a trio of strategies must be used to help a business grow. Initially, the marketing policy creates a source of income protected by legal development and trademark registration operations. After branding activities are completed, a licensing system can be deployed to improve revenue and market presence.

Licenses and revenue streams

Intellectual property licensing creates revenue streams not only for a brand owner, but also for their country of residence through taxation. The owner of a mark has the right to authorize third parties to manufacture, distribute and market products bearing this mark in exchange for royalty payments which can vary between 1 and 20% of the value of the products sold by the license holder. . This licensing revenue, in turn, increases the value of a brand as an entry-generating asset.

By developing larger jewelry industries, African countries could benefit from an influx of capital from the export and licensing of products marketed under mature brands. As these same brands gained reputation, the owners’ products would increase revenue and attract more foreign income and investment, creating jobs and sustainable growth.

Know-how and creativity

Another aspect of intellectual property is expertise, and when it comes to design and creativity, there is no shortage of artistic talent in Africa. These skills could be put to better use, even by well-known foreign producers. There is an opportunity for governments and industry players to market the talents of local jewelry designers globally and help them generate revenue through licensing agreements, seeking formal legal protection and , if necessary, to obtain registered design rights.

Africa is not just a source of raw materials: with the support of governments and industry players, local jewelry houses and designers could better market their talents globally.

Geographical indications and jewelry

Another significant potential is to create new GIs through the marketing of jewelry from regions associated with the materials used in their manufacture. With legal protection provided by trade agreements, the value of goods produced in their respective regions would be enhanced worldwide. Next to Champagne and parmesan, Northern Cape or Kalahari could become synonymous with the goods produced in these countries. This kind of global protection would require considerable lobbying and negotiation in trade deals, alongside extensive marketing initiatives by governments, manufacturers and mining companies.


In summary, there is great potential to see more African businesses selling locally sourced and made jewelry. There is no shortage of creativity in Africa when it comes to music, fashion, clothing and beautiful beaded jewelry that can be purchased from small vendors. African flair and flavor have much to offer the regional jewelry industry as well as global markets. May be Development and ownership of intellectual property are not the only keys to the success of African jewelry, but remain essential to take into account.

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