“No one should confuse a letter sent by an African country government to the AU to support the request made by the AU to ICANN that the .Africa name should be reserved for it by ICANN, as a valid endorsement for UniForum ZA Central Registry as an applicant for .Africa”, said DotConnectAfrica in a letter to ICANN.
It’s becoming one of the noisiest domain battles in the history of ICANN. DotConnectAfrica and Uniforum have been on serious contention over who will take the establishment of the first African gTLD registry. However, from the developing stories and fights within the African fraternity, there is a serious underlying problem of governmental involvement that has not been fully addressed.
This follows a reference by one applicant Uniforum who is insisting on being the preferred one. This is seen as a way of getting support on a certain quarters by referring to a declaration “Establish dotAfrica as a continental Top-Level Domain for use by organizations, businesses and individuals with guidance from African Internet agencies“ the Olivier Tambo declaration.
The trap of such a belief system is that there may not be many African countries that are authoritatively aware of the ICANN process. Given that ICANN is making headway in understanding Africa as well as encouraging more African involvement in the organization that manages the root of the domains, even the CEO of ICANN observed the same after his recent global trip that included a meeting held in Africa.
“African countries and government agreeing with the AU’s unsustainable position on .africa does not legally constitute an endorsement for UniForum’s application for the .africa new gTLD”, asserted DotConnectAfrica in clarifying the issue in the same letter to ICANN above. This must be clearly understood. Based on the kind of lobbying that has been done by Uniforum to get endorsements including using UN resources at the IGF Baku meeting.
The danger of such moves is the fact that the government itself may not be privy to the details and may just sign a document and later face the backlash when the reasons behind the endorsement/support were given.
The ICANN CEO notes in the same report above for Africa “it’s not about Internet freedom only,” and that “For them, it’s about Internet opportunity.“ He is quoted also saying “In many cases, Internet policy officials in developing nations haven’t had significant interaction with their counterparts in the U.S. and European nations”
DotConnectAfrica wrote a letter to ICANN about the Namibian Government support saying:
“we are shocked that Dr. Ben Fuller has tried to ‘pass off’ the above letter as an ‘endorsement’ for UniForum’s .Africa new gTLD application by the Namibian Government, but the Namibian Network Information Centre has not endorsed UniForum in any way”.
DCA concluded reiterating that ICANN should scruff off the African support saying “we wish to reiterate that the issue of ‘endorsement’ as a criterion for .Africa new gTLD applications should not be relevant anymore as we have already clearly suggested to ICANN as a way forward in a previous communication, since the process of obtaining African country government endorsements, as we have shown even in this matter of Namibia, has been greatly abused, and has also been associated with many irregularities and misrepresentations.”
Determination is of ICANN and not the African Union for the .africa gTLD.
“Moreover, we do not accept any African country government’s position which believes that the .Africa name string should be assigned based on the AUC’s determination, since our understanding is that every string assigned under the auspices of the globally-approved ICANN new gTLD program is done at the determination of ICANN and not of any third-parties”,
“We have consistently argued both on legal and philosophical grounds that the roles, rights, privileges, responsibilities and governance authority of ICANN under the new gTLD program cannot be usurped. Everyone must be subject to ICANN’s determination as per new gTLD Program guidelines and stipulations“.
The African situation is much diverse and complex and needs a deeper understanding on the gTLD matters and its transitions to be able to give informed decisions that were perhaps lacking in the WCIT conference in Dubai last year.