By Macharia Kamau
The process to getting a dotafrica (.africa) generic top level domain getting its own unique is muddled in confusion and politics that might derail efforts geared towards Africa identifier on the Internet.
The campaign is being dogged by controversies as to who has been endorsed by the African Union to bid for the administration rights of dotafrica. AU has been at the forefront of the dotafrica campaign and even candidly refers to the domain name as its baby.
Two firms – UniForum ZA Central Registry (ZACR) and Dot Connect Africa – have applied to the International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN – a global Internet governance body) to administer the domain name in Africa.
They have however been at each other, both laying claim to having the blessings of AU and each accusing the other of bending the rules and even manipulating politicians at the AU level for political backing. The endorsement is an ICANN requirement.
The bids by ZACR and Dot Connect Africa are besides efforts that the AU had itself expressed interest in applying to ICANN for the rights to administer the dotafrica domain name, arguing that it is a community name and that should not be administered by private sector players. It however failed to meet the application deadline.
The ICANN policies stipulate that any firm applying to administer a regional top level domain – like .africa, .eu and .asia – must have the backing of at least 60 per cent of countries in that region.
“So far, 39 countries including Kenya have written to ICANN expressing their support to ZACR to run the dotafrica registry,” he said.
He added that the political crisis in a few countries in North Africa may have slowed the response from governments in the region but is optimistic they will back the company. The firm also cites an endorsement by AU’s commission on energy and infrastructure.
Sophia Bekele, executive director Dot Connect Africa however said her firm was first to be endorsed by AU in 2009 – an endorsement that she said still stands.