|Registry:||ZA Central Registry|
|Registry Backend:||Domain Name Services (Pty) Ltd|
|Date Implemented:||15 Feb 2017|
|Priority #:||307 - UniForum SA|
.africa is a delegated new gTLD for the promotion of African Identity (businesses, people and culture) on the Internet. After many years of litigation, .africa was delegated to the Root Zone on February 17, 2017.  The string will reach general availability 04 July 2017. 
- 1 GAC Early Warnings & Response
- 2 Independent Objector
- 3 GAC Objection
- 4 Background
- 5 Registry.Africa (UniForum SA) Bid
- 6 DotConnectAfrica Bid
- 7 Past Bids
- 8 References
GAC Early Warnings & Response
DCA's bid for .africa recieved 17 GAC Early Warnings, which are noted as strong recommendations on behalf of national governments to the ICANN Board that a given application should be denied. UniForum SA's Registry.Africa bid received no such warnings.
On December 5th 2012, DCA, via its CEO Sophia Bekele, responded to the GAC Early warnings as recommended by ICANN remediation procedure. It was presumably sent not only to each objecting GAC member but the the ICANN Board as well. The letter addresses each aspect of the original warnings and its number of points include:
- All of the GAC Early Warnings are similar or identical and therefore imply that the respective governments did not independently decide to object but were "were teleguided (or manipulated) into submitting these GAC Early Warning Advice, and as such, cannot really be considered as authentic in most cases." DCA also notes that even governments that still had standing support for the DCA bid, such as Kenya, issued GAC Early Warnings, further underscoring the lack of legitimate objection and substantive dialogue on behalf of the objectors.
- DCA notes that the African Union Commission (AUC) has likely consolidated the opposition due to DCA's prior protests over the AUC's desire to make .africa and its IDN versions reserved strings. This was undertaken at ICANN Dakar, and Chairman of the Board Steve Crocker noted that such special reservations could not be made but that the AUC could still participate in and influence the delegation of .africa. DCA sees this as an unfounded recommendation on the part of ICANN for the AUC to follow specific objection procedures.
- DCA refutes the process by which UniForum SA were selected as the AUC backed candidate. It argues the process, which has been described as an "open RFP", was not fair and open and that then Chairman of AfTLD, Vika Mpisane, made the recommendation unilaterally. Going on to say that "nepotism, cronyism, abuse of office, and influence-peddling played a huge role in the appointment of UniForum." They go on to ask the AUC to release full-details about the RFP, including who applied, how they were evaluated, and the final rankings and approval minutes related to the decision.
- DCA argues that the AUC should not be seen as an endorsing entity given that it is, in essence, a co-applicant in the UniForum SA bid.
- DCA claims that if the AUC wants to unilaterally speak for the African "community" then it should have submitted a community based application.
The whole response can be read here.
The Independent Objector (IO) is a non-partisan, contracted appointee whose role was mandated by the applicant guidebook for ICANN's New gTLD Program, and who is responsible for officially objecting to new gTLDs that are dangerous to the public good. This process also involves reviewing "controversial applications," those that have received significant public comments, and investigating whether a public need for objection is provided for tin these comments. Thus, the Independent Objector issued a preliminary report on .africa, noting that DCA's bid for .africa had received many comments that call the applicant illegitimate and its application for .africa unwarranted and unsupported. The IO notes that .africa is clearly a geographic name, and that as such needs representative support of the regional government, which DCA's application for .africa does not have, thus, the IO noted that it will not likely pass its geographic names review test. The IO goes on to argue that communication with DCA has not convinced him that a community objection from him is not warranted, and seems to only be unnecessary when considering the fact that he strongly believes that DCA will fail the geographic names test and therefore not need a community objection to discredit its application.
The DCA bid for .africa was only one of two strings that received a unanimous GAC Objection, the other being .gcc. The objection is intended to be a very strong recommendation that the ICANN Board should not allow an application to be approved. ICANN's New gTLD Committee (NGPC) issued the Beijing Communique in response to the GAC's early warning, supporting its advice to deny DCA's application. DCA then received an official notification from ICANN that their application was 'not approved'. DCA implored the ICANN Board to not consider the GAC Advice and presented their case against the other applicant, UniForum, and the process by which the African Union selected them; their full response can be found here.
The .africa TLD 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, a proposal to develop an African-run .africa TLD was first introduced by Sophia Bekele to the African members of the ICANN Board in 2006, and to different African organizations of the ICANN community during the ICANN 28 meeting in Lisbon, Portugal in 2007. She emphasized the importance of the .africa domain name for the benefit of the African region’s Internet development, and how it could serve as global identity for African internet users, as .asia and .eu do for their regions. She pointed out that .africa would enable users to express their membership in a larger Pan-African and African community. Bekele cited that the .africa proposal was compliant with the objectives and policies of various international organizations aiming to strengthen Africa's ICT sector, including the WSIS, the African Union, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
In 2011, the African Union considered placing .africa 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 strongly opposed by DotConnectAfrica in Dakar, Senegal. In the end, the TLD was not reserved.
Registry.Africa (UniForum SA) Bid
On April 4th, 2012, Dr. Elham M. A. Ibrahim, the Commissioner of Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union informed Uniforum SA, trading as ZA Central Registry (ZACR) of its official appointment as the "Official Applicant and Registry Operator for dotAfrica gTLD. UniForum SA/ZACR submitted all application materials to ICANN on June 13, 2012.
Their mission and objective was outlined in their application and include:
- establishing a world class domain name registry by engaging African technology and expertise
- creating a gTLD that marks Africa's online identity, and reflects the continent's rich diversity and potential
- positioning the dotAfrica gTLD as the preferred option for citizens and business located in Africa or strongly associated with the continent
- emphasizing that the new gTLD would be "by Africa, for Africa"
AUC Letter of Endorsement to DCA's 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. The letter was signed by AUC Chairman confirmed that the AUC 'welcomes' the initiative of DCA. In addition, during the 2009 African Union conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, the AU Ministers expressed their support of the .africa 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. 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..
AUC's interest in DotAfrica
In a later development the African union stated that it 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.
On May 12, 2010, the AUC sent a letter to DCA retracting the endorsement made by Chairman Jean Ping. DCA claims that this letter was forged. A year after this retraction, the AUC issued a clarification stating they currently did not support or endorse any individual or organization, and that entities must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI), on which they would base their selection and endorsement.
DCA Reaction to African Union EOI
DCA criticized the AU's decision to implement the EOI submission competition process. 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. DCA encouraged all entities to ignore the AU EOI process and requested the AU Commission to stop the process immediately.
DCA Yes to DotAfrica Campaign
DCA announced that it plans to continue with its application for .africa with or without the AUC's support, as it believed the original endorsement granted to it by the AUC was valid and calling any retraction attempt as sabotage. 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. Ms. Bekele said that collaboration and non-competitive collaboration are possible in the bid for .africa and should be considered, and that her organization was open to discuss a collaborative bid.
On Reveal Day for ICANN's New gTLD Program, on June 13th, 2012, it was discovered that DCA had applied for .dotafrica. DCA announced that this was a mistake, a result of a misunderstanding of how the string field was supposed to be filled in. On June 19th, ICANN announced that it was looking into the possibility of allowing companies to fix mistakes in their applications. This mistake was among dozens that were later allowed to be corrected by ICANN.
Letter to U.S. Congress
Following apparently unresponsive communication sent to ICANN and the African Union, DCA appealed to members of the U.S. Congress in February, 2013. Sophia Bekele wrote on behalf of DCA, and reiterated their issues with the manner in which UniForum received and carried out the AU's endorsement. She notes that DCA does not feel there are sufficient mechanisms for appeal or dealing with corruption and ask the U.S. Congress to intervene immediately and create a special Ombudsman position for the entirety of the program. After DCA replied to its GAC Objection, the organization put out a blog post that highlighted its continued contact with the U.S. Congress and noted that it had been having meeting with congressional aides.
The following organizations had publicly expressed interest in running the .africa TLD, however in the end did not submit applications:
AfTLD Bid for DotAfrica
On March 9, 2011, AfTLD Chairman Vika Mpisane announced that AfTLD would seek the endorsement of the African Union in connection with its application to become the registry operator for the proposed .africa gTLD. According to Mr. Mpisane, the organization was interested in managing both DotAfrica and its French version, .afrique. The organization was confident that it would 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, incuding AfNOG, AfriNIC and AfrISPA.
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. AfTLD went on to support the current bid submitted by UniForum (ZACR).
ARC Bid for DotAfrica
The African Registry Consortium (ARC) was also interested in bidding to operate .africa, and 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 .africa registry. However, the ARC bid did not proceed.
- .AFRICA Delegation. Retrieved 17 Feb 2017.
- ICANN Approves Launch Dates. Retrieved 31 Mar 2017.
- Response to the ICANN GAC Early Warning, DotConnectAfrica.org Published 5 Dec 2012, Retrieved 15 Jan 2013
- Africa General Comment, Independent Objector 5 March 2013
- GAC Beijing Communique Download from, GACweb.ICANN.org Retrieved 30 May 2013
- .Africa's Map in the Digital Inclusion: A Common Voice for Africa By Sophia Bekele
- 2011 End of Year Message at Christmas-from the Yes2DotAfrica Campaign!
- 22 June 2008 – Paris ICANN: DotAfrica Initiative announced at ICANN Paris meeting
- African Union Briefing Note on .Africa
- DOTAFRICA - A specific internet namespace for Africa]
- COMMUNIQUE: The Africa Union Commission Clarification on Dot Africa]
- Yes2DotAfrica Say "No" to African Union Expression of Interest (EOI) for DotAfrica
- event in Accra
- Yes2dotAfrica Campaign successful at ICANN 40 in San Francisco, CA
- .Doh! Group applies for .dotafrica, Vistaprint applies for .webs twice, and Merck for .Merck thrice, domainnamewire.com
- The curious and lingering case of .dotafrica, domainnewsafrica.com
- ICANN may let new TLD applicants modify their applications, domainnamewire.com
- Nutty DCA Complains to US Congress about Africa, DomainIncite.com Published & Retrieved 22 Feb 2013
- DotConnectAfricaUpdate Status of Our gTLD Application Current Engagements with The US Congress, DotConnectAfrica.org Retrieved 30 May 2013
- AfTLD takes on .africa
- AfTLD concludes a successful annual concludes a successful annual African ccTLD event in Accra
- ARC Executive Summary