Delays in .africa launch as African Countries slow to reserve dotAfrica

The dotafrica domain has been staged for more delays as both applicants Uniforum ZACR and DotConnectAfrica Trust are facing various delays in processing their respective applications.  The domain is among the 1930 that were applied for in early 2012. Currently ICANN has put over 100 new top level domains in the root ready for delegation.

In Africa, several activities have seriously affected the normal programming of a domain delegation, Uniforum ZACR despite giving too much hope to applicants in the beginning of 2014 are facing numerous hitches.

Late 2013, South Africa’s Uniforum ZA Central Registry (ZACR) had announced that it expected the commencement of the .africa ‘sunrise’ phase in March 2013.  However recent reports indicate that the planned sunrise launch of the .africa internet domain name has been postponed by up to two months, resulting in its general availability being pushed forward to late 2014.

Reasons behind the delays are fishy.

First, the ZACR says complying with foreign exchange controls in South Africa to facilitate the provisioning of a ‘continuing operating instrument’ (COI), according to ICANN criteria, has held up the process.  When asking around about this COI issues, it appears that ICANN’s criteria for COI was clearly laid out in the guidebook and lack of having a proper COI should have been a disqualification on the financial evaluation.  Additionally, it is to be recalled that DotConnectAfrica made various complaints on the COI submitted by Uniforum ZACR. Here is the link on the ICANN’s site saying,

“It is clear that UniForum’s US$140,000.00 COI amount is for a smaller size domain name registry, and we believe that this amount is grossly insufficient to cater for the necessary user and registrant protection from possible risks of .AFRICA registry failure (or business failure of UniForum ZA Central Registry). In a nutshell, it appears that UniForum is unwilling to amply protect prospective users of .AFRICA from the possible risk of registry failure. US$140,000 would hardly be sufficient to safely transition and run the .AFRICA gTLD registry with an ICANN-appointed Emergency Back-End Registry Operator (EBERO); who would undoubtedly charge more (than what UniForum has provided) in keeping with the ICANN Recommended Guidelines.” In its Official Public Comments for the ICANN Evaluation Panel  .

According to a 10th September 2012 Press Release by DCA titled “ DCA Trust puts .africa new gTLD users and registrants first”

DCA Trust has quoted a lower domain name registration price with a larger COI amount, whilst UniForum ZA Central Registry on the other hand, has quoted a higher domain name registration price with a smaller COI amount….UniForum’s Financial Plan is evidently to the serious disadvantage of users who shall be forced against their will to pay a higher domain name registration fee without making any adequate provisions to put in place a sufficiently large Registry COI amount to protect users and registrants from the risk of registry business failure.”

Second, the issue of name change has caused further delays for ZACR.  It seems that ZACR has changed its name from UniForum SA, “this alteration has initiated a contract change request, a process that is under review by ICANN”, Says online reports. 

According to ICANN rules [1.2.7 Notice of Changes to Information], any material change in applicant-specific information such as changes in financial position and changes in ownership or control of the applicant,  may necessitate a reevaluation of application as well as may require additional fees. Considering the new restructuring at ZACR including a new CEO ( Read here), I would be curious who will be now owning the new ZACR and the legitimacy of the ICANN review of it, should this new organization be again evaluated under new ownership or not.  We will be watching.

ZACR had also put out an announcement for African Countries to reserve their name in anticipation for the anticlimax of the planned sunrise. A recent online report has put into perspective the slow manner in which African countries are handling the process. It’s becoming apparent that African countries have yet to understand the new gTLD process; this is courtesy of the confusion that has been created from the African Union mishandling the entire process and making it a sensitive issue.

It is reported that out of over 50 African nations just 17 countries have engaged in the process thus far, according to a list provided by the ZACR. The same number reflects those that participated in the GAC Early Warning process objecting to DCA’s application, which was called a lobbyist strategy that was majorly teleguided by individuals keen to own dotafrica

Another dotaAfrica applicant DotConnectAfrica earlier this year announced that it was  going to the independent body to review ICANN’s decision over its application.  “On Jan. 10, 2014, DCA Trust submitted an Amended Notice of Independent Review Process (‘IRP’) to the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR),” says the DCA on its website.

“DCA Trust sent its Notice of IRP in October 2013. The IRP is a proceeding provided for in Article IV, Section 3 of the ICANN Bylaws, by which any person materially affected by a decision or action of the ICANN Board may request that the action be reviewed by an independent third party for consistency with the ICANN Bylaws and/or Articles of Incorporation,” adds the DCA.

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