.africa

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Status: Proposed
Target Region: African region
Type: GeoTLD

.africa (DotAfrica) is a proposed new gTLD for the promotion of African Identity (businesses, people and culture) on the Internet. There are currently several known applicants vying for the TLD. These entities include Dot Connect Africa (DCA), a Mauritius based not-for-profit, non-partisan organization founded by Sophia Bekele; the Africa Top Level Domain (AfTLD) Organization, a non-profit organization also established in Mauritius headed by Vika Mpisane; and the African Registry Consortium (ARC), owned and operated by Domain Name Services (Pty) Ltd. and Convergence Partners (Pty) Ltd. and still yest another one AfricaOnespace.org, who came recently into the scene whose owners are affiliated with ARC, the same Executives in UNIFORUM SA.

Contents

Background

DotAfrica was originally proposed by non-African companies during ICANN's first new gTLD application round in 2000. The application was strongly opposed, however, by some African professionals. They perceived that the application was not beneficial for the African continent. Subsequently, in 2002, those professionals who were in opposition to the original application began development of a draft operational model for a DotAfrica managed by Africans.[1] Since then, several African entities has been interested in the implementation of DotAfrica as a new gTLD, including DCA, AfTLD, and ARC.

During the 2009 African Union conference at Johannesburg, South Africa, the AU Ministers expressed their support of the DotAfrica proposal and acknowledged its possible benefits for the development of the Internet within the African continent. This was based on the proposal submitted to the AU by DCA during the previous years and after DCA was already endorsed by the African. The Ministers adopted a resolution to establish .africa as a continental TLD for use by organizations, businesses and individuals with guidance from African Internet agencies.[2] In addition, the African Union was mandated by its Member States to establish cooperation and partnership with Internet stakeholders, as well as in the preparation and submission of an application for DotAfrica as new gTLD to ICANN.[3]

In 2011, African Union considered placing DotAfrica on the list of reserved names for the new gTLD program, making it so that no group other than the African Union could apply for it. This was opposed by various members of the African community, who believe that the .africa TLD should be controlled by the community to be used as a community-building mechanism. the opposition won and the TLD was not reserved.[4]

DotConnectAfrica Bid for DotAfrica

In 2006, Sophia Bekele, initiated the proposal to develop the DotAfrica gTLD through her non-profit organization DotConnectAfrica (DCA), which would serve as the sponsor and registry operator. She first presented her proposal to the African Members of the ICANN Board as well as to African members from various different groups within the ICANN community at ICANN 28 in Lisbon. In her presentation, Bekele emphasized the need and significance of the .africa domain name to reach and enrich the global internet community. She pointed out that .africa would enable users to express their membership in a larger Pan-African and African community, and also allow Africa to take its rightful place alongside .asia and .eu. In addition, Bekele cited that the DotAfrica proposal complies with the objectives of the WSIS to empower developing countries using ICT, as well as to the policies of the African Union, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the Africa Drive Project for the development of the continent.[5]

Since then, Bekele has actively campaigned for the .africa proposal among organizations and communities in the African region. In 2008, Bekele announced DCA's DotAfrica initiative during the public forum at the ICANN Paris Meeting.[6]

AUC Letter of Endorsement to DCA DotAfrica Project

On August 27, 2009, the African Union Commission (AUC) expressed its support for DCA's DotAfrica Project, also expressing a willingness to provide assistance in the coordination of the initiative with the African Ministers and Governments. Furthermore, the AUC endorsed the DCA initiative. The letter was signed by AUC Chairman Jean Ping.[7]

On May 12, 2011, however, the African Union Commission try to retract the endorsement made by AUC Chairman Jean Ping to DCA. A year after DCA's endorsement, the AUC pointed out that it was not supporting or endorsing any individual or organization. In addition, the AUC announced that entities must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI), on which they would base their selection and endorsement.[8]

DCA Reaction to African Union EOI

DCA criticized the AU's decision to implement the EOI submission competition process for its endorsement on the ICANN application for .africa. In a statement, DCA pointed out that the AU's objective to implement transparency and accountability in the EOI process sounded hollow and unbelievable and emphasized that the AU's clarification was untruthful to the extent that it did not acknowledge its previous endorsement of DCA. DCA also said that the EOI process had already been compromised, as the AU Task Force had openly expressed its support for AfTLD during the 2011 annual African ccTLD event in Ghana. Furthermore, DCA encouraged all entities to ignore the AU EOI process and requested the AU Commission to stop the process immediately.[9][10]

DCA has announced that it plans to continue with its application for .africa with or without the AUC's support. DCA believes that if it can convince two African governments to oppose the AU-backed bid, they will still have a chance, as it is unclear whether AU backing can substitute for individual letters of support from all of its member nations.[11]

DCA Yes to DotAfrica Campaign

At ICANN 40 in San Francisco in March 2011, DCA and its delegation introduced its Yes to DotAfrica campaign and spoke with registry vendors about DCA's EOI to apply for .africa. During the meeting, DCA claimed that it received support from a majority of the ICANN community for its initiative. Bekele said that collaboration and non-competitive collaboration are possible in the bid for .africa and should be considered. She stated that her organization is open to discuss a collaborative bid. She further said, "We will welcome guidance from all African Internet agencies in our organized effort; as well as the same from our international partners”.[12]

AfTLD Bid for DotAfrica

On March 9, 2011, AfTLD Chairman Vikas Mpisane announced that AfTLD would seek the endorsement of the African Union in connection with its application become the registry operator for the proposed .africa gTLD. According to Mpisane, the organization is interested managing both DotAfrica and its French version, .afrique, which is notable, as a purported 50% of Africans speak French. The organization is confident that it will be successful with its bid for the DotAfrica project, given the support it has received from the African community, African governments and its close relationship with other Africa internet organizations such as AfNOG, AfriNIC and AfrISPA.[13]

Following its announcement to seek the AU endorsement, during the 5th Annual African ccTLD Event in Accra, Ghana on May 2011, Haruna Iddrissu, Ghana Minister of Communications, and Dr. Nii Quaynor, Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Internet Task Force, expressed their support for AfTLD's bid to become the registry operator of .africa.[14]

In February 2012, the AU announced that it had chosen UniForum SA, registry operator for .za, as the registry operator for its .africa application in conjunction with AfTLD.[15] Later that month, it was announced that Sedari would assist in supporting the application with its financial, technical and policy support services.[16] In response to these announcements, DCA issued a press release accusing the AU's selection of UniForum SA to be in bad faith, and that the AU's power to select a back-end registry operator for the .africa TLD is illegitimate.[17]

ARC Bid for DotAfrica

The African Registry Consortium (ARC) is also interested in bidding to operate DotAfrica, however it is willing to partner with AfTLD and offered to provide technical, operational and financial resources for the preparation of a strong application for the management of the DotAfrica registry.[18]

References

  1. African Union Briefing Note on .Africa
  2. African Union Briefing Note on .Africa
  3. DOTAFRICA - A specific internet namespace for Africa
  4. 2011 End of Year Message at Christmas-from the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign!
  5. .Africa's Map in the Digital Inclusion: A Common Voice for Africa By Sophia Bekele
  6. 22 June 2008 – Paris ICANN: DotAfrica Initiative announced at ICANN Paris meeting
  7. African Union Commission Letter, Subject: Endorsement of the Dot Africa (.africa) Initiative
  8. COMMUNIQUE: The Africa Union Commission Clarification on Dot Africa
  9. Yes2DotAfrica Say "No" to African Union Expression of Interest (EOI) for DotAfrica
  10. event in Accra
  11. UniForum selected for .africa gTLD app, domainincite.com
  12. Yes2dotAfrica Campaign successful at ICANN 40 in San Francisco, CA
  13. AfTLD takes on .africa
  14. AfTLD concludes a successful annual concludes a successful annual African ccTLD event in Accra
  15. UniForum SA to administer .africa domain, mybroadband.co.za
  16. Sedari working on .africa gTLD bid, domainincite.com
  17. DCA challenges Africa Union on full disclosure over (dot)Africa gTLD matters, aptantech.com
  18. ARC Executive Summary
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