Karoo lamb meat has specific aromatic and sensory attributes which can be directly attributed to the geographical area. Various studies have shown that the grazing plants from the Karoo region as defined herein impart herbal and musty flavour attributes to meat from of sheep breeds of this region.

Karoo Lamb is a Geographical Indication ("GI")

Karoo Lamb is now registered as a Geographical Indication ("GI") in South Africa – as indeed is the Afrikaans equivalent, Karoo Lam. This announcement was made on 27 October 2023.

Older readers who have just digested this whole thing about plants imparting herbal and musty flavours to sheep may be reminded of a famous old corporate slogan: "They taste so good because they eat so good."

The press

The registration of Karoo Lamb as a GI in South Africa has been widely reported in the South African media, a media that closely followed, and assiduously reported on, the Rooibos GI registration story for many a year. Widely reported as the Karoo Lamb GI story has been, it obviously hasn't come close to knocking the Bokke off the front pages! This is what News24 had to say about the development.

"The registration will give Karoo Lamb the same protection as products such as Parma ham and Champagne that are produced in a specific geographical area, according to Charles Erasmus, executive manager at the Karoo Lamb Consortium, a non-profit organisation that worked to collect empirical evidence and scientific confirmation of the link between the meat and the Karoo region."

Next step - Europe

Registration as a GI in South Africa may well be a very significant development, but it is by no means the end of the GI journey for Karoo Lamb. The news article tells us that the sheep farmers from the Karoo now want a European Union ("EU") GI registration:

"The next step is for South Africa's government to submit the registration for protection in the European Union, said Johann Kirsten, director of the Stellenbosch-based Bureau for Economic Research."

Some thoughts about GIs in Africa

GIs have long been big in Europe, where geographical provenance can be uber important (just think Champagne!). But GIs are becoming increasingly high profile and influential in Africa too. This increased awareness of GIs in Africa is in no small measure down to the efforts of a body known as:

AfrIPI is an EU initiative that has been assisting African countries in recognising the potential benefits that GIs can hold, especially in countries where there is not a great deal of commercial activity. This is how the body describes itself on its website:

"AfrIPI is an international cooperation project funded and directed by the European Union, co-funded and implemented by the European Union Intellectual Property Office ("EUIPO"). It has an initial duration of 4 years starting from February 2020."

No, it really doesn't give much away!

GIs can be protected in various ways

Many African countries now understand that they can benefit from GI regimes by crafting laws that promote African interests. What you find in Africa is that GIs tend to be handled in a number of ways:

  • In the case of countries that belong to African Intellectual Property Organization ("OAPI"), through that regional registration system.
  • Through sui generic systems, in other words bespoke GI protection systems specifically created by or for these countries.
  • Through the registration of "collective" or "certification" marks.

African GIs are very much in the news

It's very noticeable how high-profile GIs are right now. For example:

  • There have been reports of late about the major role that an IP expert, Dr Fernando Dos Santos, played in the first nationally recognised GI in an African Regional Intellectual Property Organization ("ARIPO") member state, Mozambique.
  • In September 2023 the AfrIPI project, in collaboration with OAPI, presented a workshop in the Comores on the GI for a particular oil, Ylang-Ylang des Comores.
  • AfrIPI, in conjunction with OAPI, recently organised a workshop on the proposed registration of the GI Pierre de Mbigou from Gabon – this GI will relate to a particular rock that is transformed by Gabonese craftsmen into works of art.
  • OAPI recently announced that it would, together with AfrIPI, host a regional workshop on GIs from 25-27 October 2023 – there will be financial support for this initiative from the organisation Agence Francais de Development (AFD).

In short

GIs are becoming increasingly relevant in Africa, and this article is intended to provide a brief introduction to the subject.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.