The intrigues surrounding the yet-to-be delegated “.africa” internet domain are yet to subside, as DCA Trust recently wrote to the new AU leadership raising ethical and accountability issues on how the endorsement process was handled from its inception within the continental body.
In the letter dated August 2, 2013, DCA has asked the AU leadership to “review and investigate the role that the AU has played in directly supporting one particular bid and campaigning against another, in the ‘.africa’ internet domain.”
DCA, in its letter, requests for a through dig into the procedure that led to Uniforum ZACR to be selected by the AU and its application to ICANN. The letter is similar to the one submitted to the US Congress on February 20, 2013 which stated in part:
“There is preponderant evidence to now suggest that UniForum ZA Central Registry was not appointed by the African Union Commission based on the outcome of a truly transparent and accountable RFP-based tender process”, adding that: “The subsequent appointment received by UniForum through a process that we believe was corrupted provided UniForum with further advantages that also allowed it to obtain additional letters of endorsement from different African Countries to enable it satisfy the requirement of governmental support necessary for applying for a geographical TLD.”
DCA also faults the AU for not upholding its endorsement received in 2009 and instead – and in an attempt to “own” ‘.africa’ – created an RFP process that was flawed.
The letter also explains how the AU got interested in the name after endorsing DCA initially saying: “AU wanted to “own” the .Africa gTLD. However, ICANN explained to them that this was not possible as all gTLDs would be administered under a specific program that was being independently administered under their supervision.”
Following that response from ICANN, the AU then decided that an RFP would be issued to select a partner to bid on behalf of the African Community, a process that DCA did not participate in.
The three main issues raised by DCA are that the AU originally endorsed DotConnectAfrica, but a lobby of interested parties encouraged AU to first engage directly with ICANN to take ownership of ‘.africa’, a situation that ICANN would not accept; they Issued an RFP to identify a partner who would submit bid on behalf of the “African Community”, where the ‘.africa’ is designated as a generic TLD and not a community and finally, DCA argues that although the AU media releases gave an appearance of transparency, it is clear that the RFP process did not follow the basic tendering rules needed in a competitive bid.