Beijing Agreement boost for African internet
A landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) and the African Top Level Domains Organisation (AfTLD) at ICANN's 46th Public Meeting in Beijing, People's Republic of China.
Dubbed the "Beijing Agreement", the MoU is the foundation of the relationship between AfTLD - the representative of African country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) managers - and ZACR - the registry that is set to be awarded the right to operate the new dotAfrica (.africa) registry by ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers).
The agreement is a culmination of a collaboration that already existed since 2011 when AfTLD and its members endorsed the ZACR dotAfrica application. The agreement was signed by AfTLD President Dr. Paulos Nyirenda, ZACR CEO Neil Dundas and the dotAfrica Steering Committee Chair Mohammed El Bashir. The key deliverable from the MOU is allocation of a portion of dotAfrica surplus revenue for programs aimed at enhancing African ccTLD capacity as administered by AfTLD.
The AfTLD capacity building program includes technical, policy and regulatory trainings, workshops and conferences. The investment in AfTLD’s ccTLD program is not the only key deliverable for the ZACR dotAfrica project; other key deliverables are African registrar development, African content development and ancillary socio-economic objectives.
The current dotAfrica Steercom is a precursor to the establishment of a multi-stakeholder pan African Foundation that will drive the execution of the key deliverables in consultation with the African Union Commission. The Foundation is a brainchild of ZACR and the African Internet community, and is meant to ensure that dotAfrica is run in the interests of the African continent.
Through the Foundation, the ZACR and AfTLD will work towards the realisation of the objectives stated in the ZACR beneficiation model which places a premium on building up the African domain name industry and contributing to Internet growth in Africa.
According to Dr Nyirenda, "The agreement signed in Beijing recently will assist AfTLD in achieving many of its strategic objectives for the next five years. For example; the enhanced operation of ccTLD registries, improving the technical and administrative skills base of ccTLD managers, and helping to build capacity when it comes to the arbitration of domain name disputes will all become possible through collaboration with the ZACR."
According to Mr. Bashir, “the agreement between ZACR and AfTLD sets a very important tone and target for the forthcoming Foundation because it ensures that whatever surplus revenue is generated for spending on projects in Africa, ccTLD development is one of the key priorities. There is even a possibility of having AfTLD playing a bigger role in dotAfrica than just ccTLD development.”
Collaboration has historically been integral to AfTLD's business model. The organisation - already recognised by ICANN as the representative of African ccTLDs - already works in partnership with other Regional Top Level Domain Organisations (RTLDOs) such as Asia-Pacific’s APTLD, Europe’s CENTR and Latin-America’s LACTLD. AfTLD has formed solid partnership with other common interest organisations, including ICANN, ISOC and NSRC, and these have seen AfTLD deliver cutting edge capacity building programs for African ccTLDs.
ZACR (“formerly known as UniForum SA and known for its co.za operation) provides a central registry platform for some of the main .ZA 2nd level domains, including co.za, net.za and web.za. It was endorsed by the AUC as its preferred bidder for dotAfrica, and has since then garnered additional endorsements by at least 41 African governments. With ICANN new gTLD evaluation in full swing, while no objections have been received against ZACR’s bid, there is now strong anticipation that ZACR should launch dotAfrica later this year.