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Africa domain attracts interest

o Edris Kisambira
16.08.2010 kl 19:30 | Computerworld Uganda

Even though ICANN has not yet issued the license that will allow for the creation of the .africa domain name registry, there seems to be a lot of interest at the pan-African level.


Even though ICANN has not yet issued the license that will allow for the creation of the .africa domain name registry, there seems to be a lot of interest at the pan-African level.

"If I can grade the level of interest on a scale of zero to five, I would say it is at five," said Sophia Bekele, founder and executive director of DotConnectAfrica (DCA), the nonprofit umbrella organization for the .africa domain initiative.

Bekele was in Kampala, the Uganda capital, to attend the East Africa Internet Governance Forum, which ended Friday.

"I have seen interest at the pan-African level, and a lot of companies that have pan-African operations like mobile-phone operator Zain, continental banks and even multinationals with African operations are excited about it," Bekele said.

Bekele said that aside from the policy bodies like the African Union and the African Development Bank (ADB), prospective users of the .africa name include pan-African companies like MTN, EcoBank, United Bank for Africa and foreign companies doing business in Africa like Microsoft, Google and Coca-Cola.

The ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) board in February next year is set to expand the generic top-level domain space from four -- ".com," ".org," ".net" and ".biz" -- to 21.

Bekele, a policy adviser to ICANN between 2005 and 2007, said the idea for an .africa domain came up at the time she advised ICANN on existing top-level domains like .com and .org, and geographical names like .eu and .asia.

"I asked why not .africa? I initially went to the existing African grouping and African persons serving on the board, and I was told it was a very difficult task getting the African governments to agree," she said.

Bekele said she has spent the past two years working with the African Union's (AU) infrastructure commission to get the endorsements required for the application to ICANN.

In November last year, the Council of African Internet Communication Technology ministers meeting in South Africa adopted a resolution to "establish Dot Africa as a continental top-level domain for use by organisations, businesses and individuals with guidance from African Internet agencies."

In February this year, the AU heads of state meeting in Addis Ababa endorsed the DotAfrica initiative.

The DCA proposal has been endorsed by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), which coordinates African ministries of economic affairs.

DotConnectAfrica, if it receives a license, will operate the .africa top-level domain registry with help from sponsor organizations and business people. Money generated will go directly to an African organization to build capacity in Africa, Bekele said.

The .africa initiative will also work with the country code top-level domains of Africa. Most ccTLDs are run by technical people who could use help on the business and marketing side of operations.

Bekele said she will engage in a continental marketing campaign, working with pan-African institutions to encourage development of content to popularize the .africa name.

The push for the .africa domain has not been smooth sailing for the DCA, however.

"So far the challenges we have faced are from existing African groupings that had resisted our applications to do the .africa name," Bekele said.

The DCA is often mistakenly seen as representing U.S. interests and being led by the private sector, Bekele noted.

Appealing for support at the conference in Kampala, Bekele said, "A continental project is complex and requires many stakeholders to make it a success, so we call upon everyone to join us and make it happen, instead of detracting from the process."

Keywords: Internet  
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