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.AFRICA Status Update

Latest FAQs, following IRP Declaration

  • The ZACR application for .AFRICA passed evaluation on 12 July 2013. Following this, the ZACR signed a Registry Operator agreement with ICANN on the 24th of March 2014, which regulates the delegation and administration of the .AFRICA domain. This agreement is unconditional and is still in full force and effect.

  • One of the consequences of having signed the agreement is that the ZACR and ICANN have to work through the technical and operational processes of delegating (basically delivering) the .AFRICA TLD to the ZACR. This process is known as PDT (Pre Delegation Testing).

  • Whilst the PDT process was underway, based on unanimous Government objection from the government stakeholder group (known as GAC Consensus Advice) the ICANN board rejected the competing application for .AFRICA, submitted by DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA). This decision by the ICANN Board, based on government advice, lead to the filing of the Independent Review Process (IRP) by DCA.

  • Once the IRP was underway, the panel requested ICANN to “suspend” the PDT process. ICANN obliged and for almost 20-months the ZACR’s PDT process did not move forward, notwithstanding that there is a signed Registry Agreement in place.

  • Following the conclusion of the IRP, the panel recommended that the DCA application be referred back to the evaluation process. Since .AFRICA is a geographic name, a key component of this evaluation process is to determine whether the DCA application has the required support from over 60% of African governments and no substantive government objection. Given the GAC Consensus Advice this seems an impossible hurdle for DCA to overcome and their application is sure to be dismissed as part of the evaluation process.

  • ICANN has elected to keep the PDT suspension in place pending the outcome of the DCA evaluation.
  • The Independent Review Process (IRP) is not a court process but rather an independent accountability or alternate dispute resolution mechanism introduced by the ICANN community. It is very similar to an arbitration process.

  • As indicated above, the IRP has had no legal effect on the ZACR contract with ICANN. The ZACR contract remains firmly in place. There is, however, an operational impact on the launch of .AFRICA due to the fact that ICANN has elected to continue with the suspension of the PDT until the DCA evaluation has run its course. 

  • The ZACR needs to complete the PDT process before it it can launch (make available) the .AFRICA domain to the public.

  • More information available here.
  • Much depends on the evaluation of the DCA application. As mentioned above, a key component of this evaluation is to determine and verify the minimum government support, which is a prerequisite for a domain such as .AFRICA. The evaluation of government support is assigned to a separate evaluation panel known as the Geographic Names Panel (GNP).

  • According to the Applicant’s Guidebook:
    • a geographic name will require: “documentation of support… from at least 60% of the respective national governments in the region, and there may be no more than one written statement of objection to the application from relevant governments in the region and/or public authorities associated with the continent or the region.”
    • In cases where an applicant has not provided the required documentation, the applicant will be contacted and notified of the requirement, and given a limited time frame to provide the documentation.”

  • We estimate that the period that the GNP would require to conclude its  assessment will be anything between 3 - 6 months. This process has already started, to the best of our knowledge.

  • In our opinion, no. Their actions are simply delaying the inevitable.

  • In order to succeed with the .AFRICA application, DCA is (or should have been) fully aware that it requires, and must prove, substantive government support. Having worked closely with the African Union Commission (AUC) and individual African governments on this matter, we do not believe that DCA has the required support.

  • We do know for a fact that DCA has attracted unprecedented government objection, which in itself is a fatal blow to their application. Over 16 (sixteen) Early Warning notices were issued by different African governments against the DCA application, followed by Consensus GAC Advice to reject their application.  The writing is, and has always been, on the wall for DCA.

  • All 16 (sixteen) government Early Warnings, against the DCA application, are on record and available to the public here.

We have legally binding, unconditional and fully enforceable contract with ICANN. Given what we know about the requirements for geographic names and the unprecedented level of government objection to the DCA application, we simply cannot imagine that we will not be successful.

We believe that ICANN can take some positives away from the IRP Declaration and improve its accountability mechanisms. It is just a pity that .AFRICA had to be drawn into this process.

  • We continue to prepare for the launch of the .AFRICA domain to the public. This means that we are not only preparing our technical systems, but also that we continue to engage with the distribution channel (the Registrars) who will take the new .AFRICA domain to the public.

  • We are also working closely with the AUC and African governments to ensure that the Reserved Name Lists are updated and remain relevant.

  • Work is also been done on establishing the dotAfrica Foundation, which will oversee the delivery of benefits flowing from the .AFRICA project in terms of: developing African:
    • Country domains (ccTLDs);
    • Registrars;
    • Online Content; and
    • Other socio-economic initiatives relating to the Internet in Africa.