The general availability of the .africa Top Level Domain (TLD) is expected to commence in September 2014, following the expiry of the Sunrise and Land Rush periods which are scheduled to commence in May 2014.
“dotAfrica domains will be available for registration on a first-come-first-served basis from September 2014 once the rights of trade mark holders have been processed during the designated Sunrise period,” said Dundas.
He said that the ZACR has now received a formal invitation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) to commence contracting in its capacity as the selected dotAfrica registry operator who has successfully completed initial evaluation.
“There are two items that have delayed the conclusion of contracting, namely the provision of a Continuing Operating Instrument (COI) according to ICANN’s revised criteria and the fact that our company name has changed from UniForum SA to the ZA Central Registry,” said ZACR’s new CEO, Lucky Masilela.
Masilela said that South Africa’s foreign exchange controls have presented challenges in terms of getting the contract process underway.
“There were a number of regulatory challenges to overcome in order to secure the COIs on the terms that ICANN required,” Masilela said. “Fortunately, with the co-operation of our bankers and the South African Reserve Bank this issue has subsequently been resolved to ICANN’s satisfaction.”
In addition, the issue of the name change has initiated a contract change request and this process is currently under review by ICANN, the ZACR said.
Other than the mandatory 30-day application comment period, the ZACR said it does not anticipate that this will lead to any further delays in the contracting process.
In the context of the above, the ZACR said it is confident that it will be in a position to execute the Registry Agreement during the course of March 2014.
This will enable the ZACR to complete pre-delegation Testing and the submission and approval of its launch program. “All things being equal we anticipate that we will be able to commence our Sunrise process in either April or May this year,” Dundas said.
Upon receiving the final go-ahead from ICANN, the ZACR said it will kick off the dotAfrica launch by running both Sunrise and Land Rush applications in parallel for a period of 90-days.
When this launch period concludes, the ZACR will start allocating the submitted domain name applications based on a pre-determined priority ranking system. Contested applications, which are similar applications for the same domain name string, will be resolved by means of an auction process.
The ZACR said that the priority ranking system will allocate domain name applications, submitted during the 90-day application window, in order of highest priority to lowest priority.
Domain name applications based on trade marks registered in Africa will receive the highest priority, followed by trade marks registered in other jurisdictions. Applications that are not based on any validated priority right, such as generic Land Rush applications, will receive the lowest priority.
Following the allocation or rejection of all applications filed during the 90-day application window, the ZACR said it will start the General Availability phase based on a first-come-first-served-basis.
There will be no eligibility requirements other than “first-come-first-served”, the ZACR said.