Usually I try to avoid posting articles about Microsoft that do not relate to Open Source, however in this story at Aljazeera we see Microsoft making the claim that using pirated software is hampering economic growth and costing governments and businesses billions of dollars.
Lets be clear here; the NZOSS is firmly on Microsoft;s side here. We don't want to see African countries pirate Microsoft's products any more than Microsoft itself does. Were we part ways is our strategy for achieving that goal. Microsoft would have us believe that passing more stringent intellectual property laws and having a tough enforcement regieme will reduce piracy. It is not clear how increasing the outflow of money from poor African countries that can hardly afford to feed their populations will help stimulate the economy.
Our alternative is Open Source. Using Open Source will mean that instead of turning unwitting Africans into criminals just for using some software, they will be able to use the software for free legitimately. Not only that, but the same people will have access to the technology - the source code - which will be valuable in teaching them about how to build and contribute to what they have. Government and businesses will be able to build local technology companies to cater for African needs instead of pouring money into large International software vendors.
Of course, one of the most popular Linux distributions comes from Africa; referring of course to Ubuntu Linux. What African countries certainly don't need to do is follow the lead of Western countries who have implemented patent systems which allow protection of obvious ideas. For an in depth analysis of Open Source in Africa take a look at this paper.