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Research & Projects

African Scholars of Knowledge Justice

The project is funded by the
OSF (Open Society Foundations).


ASK Justice contributes to positive policy change to increase access to medicines (A2M) and access to knowledge (A2K), by building a strong network of experts at South and East African universities. Participating faculty research, teach, and inform public debate on the intersection of human rights and current and future Intellectual Property (IP) law and policy reform processes. We seek a better understanding of the interface of Human Rights (HR), IP, and the Public Interest.

The loci are the Universities of Nairobi, Strathmore (Kenya), Makerere (Uganda), KwaZulu-Natal, and Cape Town (South Africa).


IP policies and laws in Africa either help or hinder access to essential goods such as medicines and educational materials. Some holders of IP have strong incentives to exploit IP in ways that limit access even when required by human rights. IP laws in African countries are often copied from developed countries and are inappropriate for African countries and our needs.

Academics contribute to policy change in a way that civil rights organizations cannot; by means of inter-disciplinary, research-based analyses. OSF has supported the development and teaching of courses on Human Rights and IP at some of our loci, in the past. The research and curricula developed from these initiatives will be incorporated, added to, and taken forward, in this project. ASK Justice will also incorporate these initiatives into a network to strengthen their sustainability.

ASK Justice is involved with Open A.I.R. (Open African Innovation Research and Development), the only pan-African IP scholarly association. Partly in response to the ASK Justice initiative, the governance structure of Open A.I.R. is being reviewed so that it can become a network that supports and co-ordinates multiple smaller networks and projects.


The ASK Justice network is creating capacity for participating scholars to co-create curricula, texts and courses; research central Human Rights issues in IP reform, and engage with policy making institutions including Human Rights bodies; contribute to public discourse on policy and legislative choices and provide support and training to civil society actors.


Policy Research

To engage in case studies on recent and current intellectual property reform processes in Botswana, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa through a human rights lens, comparing and contrasting the countries.


To develop resources to assist not only network members but also other similarly situated scholars to teach issues at the intersection of Human Rights and Intellectual Property.

Public Voice

To maintain ongoing public communication on policy developments that affect intellectual property, human rights and the public interest.

Principal Investigators Tobias Schonwetter and Andrew Rens
Project Manager Nan Warner
Leadership Committee Tobias Schonwetter (UCT), Andrew Rens (Duke University), Nan Warner, Yousuf Vadwa (UKZN), Zahara Nampewo (MU), Tamar Ezer (OSF)
Comms & Publication Elsabe Gelderblom
Capacity Building  
Teaching Paul Machogu (UoN), Zaharah Nampewo (MU), Lillian Makanga (CIPIT), Yousuf Vadwa (UKZN), Tobias Schonwetter (UCT)
Policy Research Andrew Rens (Duke), Busingye Kambumba (MU), JimCall Pfumorodze (UB), Caroline Ncube (UCT), Tobias Schonwetter (UCT)
Public Voice Rose Nakayi (MU), Lloyd Lotz (UKZN)

Key Partners

Fellowship Programme

Three fellowships of one month each will be offered.