Many promises were made when the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), to which 17 countries belong, joined UPOV 91 more than five years ago: agricultural transformation thanks to a commercial seed sector, foreign investment in breeding, significant licensing income for national research institutions. Now a study co-financed by SWISSAID is bringing disillusionment.

The plant variety protection system UPOV 91 – a worldwide uniform system of plant variety protection created for the seed sector in industrialized countries – is not adapted to the socio-economic and agricultural conditions in West Africa and is therefore hardly used by OAPI member States and the private sector. The system has not led to a significant increase in plant breeding activities and has not advanced the seed industry in the region as a whole.

In OAPI countries, the majority of farmers’ seed needs are met by traditional farm-based seed systems. UPOV 91 has been applied one-to-one to these developing countries, but is not effective. Instead of providing solutions, UPOV 91 is associated with significant costs and missed opportunities for the people in the OAPI region.