A dispute over the .africa regional geographic top-level internet domain (TLD) has entered another round. The Kenya-based DotConnectAfrica trust (with headquarters in Mauritius) in a press release this week applauded the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for granting a change request to their application. DotConnectAfrica by mistake had applied for .dotafrica instead of .africa in its application during the new gTLD process in April.
Yet while DotConnectAfrica speaks of a significant landmark victory in the battle for the .africa gTLD, the chances for the DotConnectAfrica TLD are slim at best as the competing application from UniForum SA (NPC), trading as Registry Africa, is officially supported by the African Union. With ICANN, according to its new TLD guidebook, obliged to look for the official endorsement for geographic TLDs – for regions at least 60 percent of the respective governments have to be supportive – the DotConnectAfrica’s bid can hardly win.
The initiative pushed by Sophia Bekele, entrepreneur and former member of the Generic Name Supporting Organisation of ICANN, has been trying to undermine the competing application by a long list of complaints posted on ICANN’s gTLD application public comment forum. The list starts with what DotConnectAfrica says are undisclosed conflicts of interest of many members of the African Union Task Force on a .africa TLD, continues to lack of financial reserves and extends to warnings about “misrepresentations.”
The African Union Commission on the other hand clearly pointed to ICANN’s gTLD applicant guidebooks and the rules about geographic TLDs and did so in the public comment forum and even warned that “a purported letter of endorsement from the African Union Commission by dotConnectAfrica Trust must be dismissed since the African Union Commission has issued DCA a letter clearly stating the contrary.”
The AU had endorsed the UniForum application. The letter by Moctar Yedaly, head of the Information Society Division at the African Union Commission, reads: “The guidebook requires at least 60% of the relevant national governments in a region to provide documentation in support of new applications for geographic strings, which the applicant does not have.”
The mudslinging on the TLD for the African continent might be the fiercest of its kind, yet there are other struggles about geographical TLDs, for example the warnings by the governments of Chile and Argentina over the application for .patagonia by the US sportswear company.
To see the public comment page of ICANN go to: https://gtldcomment.icann.org/applicationcomment/viewcomments