Developing Countries have been the subject of
exploitation for decades since the countries legal systems are not yet equipped
to protect their interests and resources. Africa is an enormous country with a
rich heritage and diverse flora and fauna. The people have a diverse culture
with innumerable cultures and traditions that have been there since before civilization.
The Protecting of Traditional Knowledge and preserving the culture of a
community has been a international crisis for decades. A new perspective has
been added on a International level with a recent development in Kenya, Africa.
The Maasai are an ethnic group residing in the Massai Mara which has become an International tourist spot because of the Maasai Mara national park. This has brought the native people of Massai into the limelight of the world. They have a semi-nomadic life and about 80% of their community lives below poverty levels, mainly being castle-rustlers.
The Maasai People have had an increase in interest and awareness as to the benefits of protection of their image, symbols in a legal and systematic way. In particular, Isaac ole Tialolo, a member of the Maasai tribe of Kenya, has been a key individual that went from breaking the camera of a tourist attempting to take photo photographs of Massai warriors to becoming the chair of the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative Trust. The Trust was built with the main objective of protecting and monetizing the famous iconic cultural brand and image. It has been reported that there are an estimated 1000 companies who use the image and reputation of the Maasai culture for their products which could estimate to billions of dollars.
The MIPT has started on the right track and the Government of Kenya has initiated their efforts to help by recently adopting an Act for the Protecting of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions and other legal provisions but there is a long way to go before the people of Maasai get what they have set out to achieve.