Octavia Kumalo at ICANN 44 in Prague

The ZA Central Registry, now canvassing support at ICANN 44, says its winning the right to administer .africa would benefit the whole continent.

Uniforum, trading as the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) is at ICANN 44 in Prague this week, seeking support for the ZACR bid to administer the new .africa generic Top Level Domain (gTLD)

ZACR Steering committee members are driving home the point that ICANN recently confirmed that only the ZA Central Registry has applied to administer the new .africa gTLD. Another bidder, Dot Connect Africa Trust (DCA), has applied for a gTLD called “dotafrica”.

Octavia Kumalo, PR and marketing head for ZACR, says there has been confusion among delegates at ICANN 44 over the two Africa-related strings, but that ZACR is seeing huge support from the 1000-plus delegates at the event.

“People are loving us,” Kumalo says. “We even ran out of marketing collateral this week.”

Whether this enthusiasm will translate into the right to administer the gTLD cannot be said. Khumalo says all applicants are now engaged in a waiting game to find out who will be awarded administration rights.

The application process, which began in November last year, has seen substantial investments made by all applicants, including a USD185 000 application fee. Recouping this investment will only begin once an applicant has been awarded the rights to administer a gTLD.

At around USD18 per annum for a domain, the resulting income may not seem like much, but Khumalo points out that in South Africa alone, over 800 000 sites are using the .co.za domain. In Africa, with 54 countries and an exponentially-growing online presence, the potential revenue generated by the TLD would be huge.

“And the important thing about ZACR’s bid is that UniForum is a non-profit organisation,” Kumalo points out. “Therefore, the revenue generated from .africa domains will go right back into community development across Africa.”

Kumalo says these development projects are likely to include enterprise development with an ICT slant, extensive ICT access projects at schools, and local digital content development.

“You’ll also see significant development of the African registrar market,” says Kumalo. There are currently only a handful of ICANN-accredited registrars in Africa; and when this number is grown, there will be a resulting increase in jobs and business opportunities too.”

 “Right now, we’re very excited,” she says. “This is an opportunity for Africa to stand out and be noticed.”

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