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Dispute further delays launch of .africa domain name

dotAfrica_logoA complaint by an organisation competing for the dot Africa geographic top-level domain (gTLD) has further postponed the launch of the internet name, which was planned to be unveiled early June.

This is according to Neil Dundas, the chief operating officer of South Africa’s ZA Central Registry (ZACR), who says the internet name may only be commercially launched in late June or July now.

This is the latest delay in a series of hold-ups for dotAfrica after ZACR told ITWeb Africa last year that it planned to launch the domain name in March this year. But later on, ZACR then blamed technicalities for pushing an official dotAfrica sunrise launch date to April or May this year.

Now, the latest delay to late June or July is being blamed on a dispute.

In the run-up to winning rights to manage dotAfrica, ZACR initially edged out Kenyan based DotConnectAfrica (DCA), the only other competing organisation for dotAfrica, in getting Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) approval to manage the domain name.


ZACR then signed a contract with ICANN in Singapore in March 2014 to legally manage dotAfrica.

Dundas says the key reason for ICANN initially awarding ZACR with .africa was because ZACR received the necessary support and endorsement from the African Union (AU), while DCA did not get the necessary AU backing.

But DCA, which claims it previously received support from the likes of the AU for the domain name, has launched action to challenge ICANN’s decision.

“That decision has been challenged by DCA, unsuccessfully, on a number of levels, including a complaint to the ICANN Ombudsman and letters to the US Congress,” Dundas explained to ITWeb Africa.

“DCA’s latest challenge involves an accountability review process called the ‘Independent Review Process’ or ‘IRP’. This process is documented in the ICANN bylaws.

“The ICANN Board Decision to deny the DCA application is currently subject to an IRP. We believe that a final decision is due from the IRP by the end of May 2014,” Dundas told ITWeb Africa.

Dundas has gone on further to explain to ITWeb Africa that “this interim decision essentially advises ICANN to suspend any possible delegation of .africa until the final decision is given.”

In the meantime; though, Dundas has told ITWeb Africa that ZACR’s application has been progressing through the compliance processes determined by ICANN for the delegation of the name.

And Dundas is upbeat that ZACR is set to remain as the preferred bidder and, eventually, manage dotAfrica.

“We do not believe that the final IRP decision will in any way change ICANN’s decision to ultimately delegate the .africa TLD to the ZACR. It is now just a matter of time,” Dundas told ITWeb Africa.

“As we were hoping to commercially launch the TLD to the public in early June, we must now postpone the launch date to a new date following the final IRP decision. Depending on how ICANN elects to deal with the final IRP decision we could most likely see the launch of the .africa TLD as early as late June, early July,” Dundas said.

Meanwhile, Dundas says the IRP process does not affect ZACR’s bid to manage the South African city internet domain names of .joburg, .capetown and .durban.

Also, attention has shifted to ICANN’s processes and whether or not they can be relied upon.

“It is our understanding that this delay could have been avoided had ICANN taken the necessary steps in relation to the IRP sooner. From an registry operational perspective (i.e. from our perspective) this is not a screw up, but rather an unfortunate inconvenience that will simply delay the inevitable by a few weeks,” Dundas told ITWeb Africa.

“We are convinced that it will not make any difference to the end decision to appoint the ZACR as the official registry operator for .africa. Even though DCA have made a nuisance of itself by unduly delaying this process, it is probably the correct thing to do for ICANN to first wait for the final IRP decision before proceeding with delegation,” Dundas added.

Credit: IT Web Africa


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