Ruth L. Okediji, the Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and leading intellectual property (IP) law scholar, has been named Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Center for African Studies (CAS).
“I am delighted that Ruth Okediji has agreed to serve as the next director of the Center for African Studies,” said University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Alan M. Garber. “Ruth is an exemplary scholar, teacher, and mentor. Her intellectual leadership and extensive experience working with inter-governmental organizations as well as national and regional institutions on the African continent make her an ideal choice for expanding the work of the center on campus and across Africa.”
“I also want to extend my thanks to Emmanuel Akyeampong for his dedicated leadership over the past seven years, both in continuing to develop the center’s vision and in creating new partnerships and research opportunities that will ensure ongoing engagement with issues crucial to African studies and development,” said Garber.
Over the course of Akyeampong’s seven years as director, CAS successfully launched its Johannesburg office, created a high-profile lecture series, and expanded engagement in African studies across the University.
Okediji’s research examines, among other things, the impact of IP law and policy on human welfare in developing and least-developed countries. Her interest in the development impact of IP laws began when she was a student at the Law School, studying under faculty that included William Alford, the Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law, William W. Fisher III, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law, and the late Leroy Hazen Vail, who pioneered African studies at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and for whom she served as a teaching assistant in his courses on African history. It was in Vail’s classes that her research grew in ambition and scope, exploring colonialism’s impact on the rate and direction of innovation in Africa and framing patents as a source of technology transfer to the Continent. Her seminal work on international patent law, drug development, and access to medicines helped define the now well-known field of IP and Development.
During her distinguished career, Okediji has served as a policy adviser to inter-governmental organizations, regional economic communities, and national governments on various matters related to IP, competition law, innovation policy, and human welfare. Her scholarship has influenced government policies and national strategies for implementing the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and other global IP treaties in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. She served as the chief technical expert and lead negotiator for the Delegation of Nigeria to the 2013 WIPO Diplomatic Conference to Conclude a Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities (Marrakesh VIP Treaty). In 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed her to the 2015-2016 High Level Panel on Access to Medicines.