The public launch of the .africa TLD by the ZACR has been delayed due to the Independent Review Process (IRP) currently in progress between ICANN and DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA Trust).
It is a matter of public record that DCA Trust initially submitted a separate competing application for .africa, but lacked critical government support. In contrast, the ZACR’s application for .africa was accompanied by widespread support from African governments, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Internet community.
In terms of the stringent rules governing the application process for the new gTLDs, an application that qualifies as a “geographic” name must be accompanied by significant government support. This criterion was not only absent from the DCA Trust application, but it also attracted vociferous opposition from African governments.
Government opposition to the DCA Trust application manifested itself in a number of ways, none more so than through the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) advice. The GAC, which represents governments from all over the world within the ICANN multi-stakeholder structure, formally advised the ICANN board that it had reached consensus that DCA Trust’s application for .africa should not proceed. As a result, ,the ICANN Board denied DCA Trust’s application with immediate effect.
The ICANN Board decision, issued on the back of consensus GAC advice, is now being challenged by DCA Trust through an internal accountability review process called the “Independent Review Process” or “IRP". This process is documented in the ICANN Bylaws.
On 12May 2014 the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, at the instigation of DCA Trust, issued an interim decision advising the ICANN board to suspend the possible delegation of .africa until the IRP process has been resolved. Prior to this development, the ZACR’s application, having passed Initial Evaluation (IE) and contracting, had been progressing through the final stages of preparing for the technical delegation of the TLD.
As a result of the delegation process being suspended pending the resolution of the IRP proceedings, we have had no option but to delay the impending launch of the TLD to the public. Whilst no final date has yet been provided by ICANN or the IRP, we anticipate that the IRP should be finalised within the next 6 – 8 weeks, hopefully sooner.
Whilst the current delay is unfortunate and inconvenient, we do not believe that the final IRP decision will in any way change ICANN’s decision to delegate the .africa TLD to the ZACR. The merits supporting ICANN’s decision, underpinned by consensus GAC advice and the new gTLDs applicant guidebook leaves no doubt as to the final outcome of this matter.
Based on the above, our revised target date for the public launch of the .africa TLD is 1 July 2014. This target date may need to be further revised depending on the clarity provided by ICANN and the IRP panel in the coming weeks.
Where does this leave the ZACR?
As matters current stand, the ZACR is the official and only contracted party for the .africa TLD. This legally binding and enforceable contract was signed by ICANN and ZACR at the Singapore meeting in March 2014.
Is there any knock-on effect on the ZACR’s other gTLD applications for .capetown, .joburg & .durban?
There is absolutely NO negative impact on the 3x ZA City TLDs. The IRP process ONLY relates to the .africa TLD. The public can expect that we will be launching all 3x ZA City TLDs together as soon as we can usher all 3 (three) through the delegation process. At this point our estimated target date for the launch of these TLDs remains sometime in June 2014.