DCA clarifies its “.africa” bid at Innovation Africa Digital Summit in Addis Ababa

The just concluded Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit in Addis Ababa provided Dot Connect Africa (DCA) with an opportunity to clarify and highlight issues around its “.africa” gTLD application.

DCA's Sophia Bekele
DCA’s Sophia Bekele

During the Universal Access Panel discussions, Sophia Bekele who represented DCA Registry Services at the Summit clarified that during this new gTLD application window, two bids were submitted to ICANN  for the “.africa” new gTLD by two different competitors.

Ms Bekele explained that both bids have been placed by ICANN in the same Exact Matching Contention Set, adding that contrary to the misconception that was being given to the audience that South Africa-based Uniforum ZA Central Registry was the only “.africa) applicant, DotConnectAfrica Trust also applied directly to ICANN for the mandate to operate the .Africa new gTLD registry.

“All the rights to the new “.africa” gTLD including the registry databases, rightfully belongs to ICANN and the African Union and UniForum cannot act outside these specifications that have been legally codified and approved,” stated Bekele.

The 11th Innovation Africa Digital Summit was held in Addis Ababa under the theme: “National Broadband Strategies and Agendas: Acceleration and Alignment,” from March 19 to 21, 2013. The three-day event was attended by ministers, policy makers, corporate executives, regulators, telecommunications operators and service providers; major end users, finance companies and international agencies.

Bekele, who is also a former gNSO Policy advisor to ICANN for generic domain names and has helped to champion the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) at ICANN.

DCA Trust uses the opportunity provided by such gatherings to clarify how the ICANN new gTLD process operates in order to correct the misconception that it is the African Union Commission (AUC) which has the authorized mandate to delegate the “.africa” new gTLD.

According to DCA, “.africa” as an Internet new gTLD resource rightly belongs to ICANN “as the entire new gTLD program is governed by ICANN under a globally approved process.”  In this regard, Ms Bekele was categorical that “the final decision on “.africa” new gTLD will be made by ICANN, and not by the African Union.”

Mr Bashir Gwandu, Chairman of the ITU Commonwealth Group, who was also part of the Universal Access Panel, responded to questions from the audience on who is the most appropriate body to manage the Internet between ICANN and ITU, saying: “if it is not broken why fix it,” adding that he does not favor any form of government intervention in matters of Internet Governance.

The event was also attended by the Internet Business Council for Africa (IBCA) and the Ethiopian State Minister for Communications and Information Technology, H.E. Ato Peter Gat Koukt.
The three-day Summit was jointly organized by the Ethiopian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and Extensia Ltd, a UK-based events management firm.

DCA also adds that governments should not be involved in the management of new gTLDs.  This is in reference to the fact that ICANN expects the new gTLDs to be managed and administered by registry services operations businesses.

DCA further pointed out that “Uniforum in its application submitted to ICANN has already given away the legal rights to the .africa registry databases and all intellectual property to the AU, which explains why Uniforum was calling it an AU initiative, the same view that was held by the NEPAD representative who was also a panelist.”

This is a contrast as DCA Trust has always maintained that all the rights to the new “.africa” gTLD including the registry databases, rightfully belongs to ICANN according to the stipulations of the new gTLD Program and the associated new gTLD Registry Services Agreement, and that the African Union and UniForum cannot act outside these specifications that have been legally codified and approved.

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