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Kenya’s .KE Domain Registrations Nearing 100,000 Mark, but It Can Do Better – Here’s Why

Mwendwa Kivuva

Over the years, the Kenyan Network Information Center (KeNIC) has struggled to reach the 100,000 mark in .ke Kenya country code domain registrations.

Many reasons have been given for this shortfall, among them pricing, competition from generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) like .com and .org, and also competition from Geographic domains like the new .africa. Also, not opening up the second level for registration has been cited as one of the reasons for the low number. KeNIC subsequently opened up registration on the second level in 2018, but this did not shore up the numbers. Other reasons include fear of political interference of .ke registered domains where political orders may takedown a registered domain without following due process and downtime at the Registry costing .ke dependent businesses unwarranted business loss.

KeNIC has grappled with pricing for many years. The latest strategy has been to give domain Registrars a flat fee for registering domains. The cost of registering a .co.ke domain (example nation.co.ke) to the Registrar as of 2019 is Ksh650 ($6.5), and the cost of renewal for each subsequent year is Ksh1160 ($11.6). The cost of registering a .ke domain (example nation.ke) is Ksh5800 ($58). These, however, are not the costs that the end-user (Registrant) will get since the bulk sellers (Registrars) will add some markup to sustain their businesses. There is no regulation on how much the Registrars mark up their prices, but Ksh2000 ($20) is common for .co.ke and ksh8000 ($80) for .ke domains. KeNIC's pricing model is confusing to end-users because customers expect consistency. When registration fees are lower than renewal fees, the customers feel duped at the point of renewal, usually after the first year of registration.

How is the competition in Africa faring? In South Africa, there are around 1.26m .za domains. A single domain is priced at around R 75.00 ($5) for the end-user. For a .com, the average price is $15 per year.

From the September 2019 statistics, .ke domains stand at 93,446. This is 6,554 domains shy of the 100,000 mark. With proper management, marketing, and value proposition, KeNIC should cross the 100k mark in early 2020.

The numbers can be higher if KeNIC can be more deliberate. They should put strategies to increase trust on the Registry by reducing downtime of this key critical infrastructure, and provide periodic reports on how the resource is doing on availability. 100% availability is the minimum that is expected of a Registry. They should also address the political risk issue, and also increase in marketing and awareness. KeNIC revenue is about Ksh84,000,000 $0.84m (Assuming 43,000 new registrations at $6.5, and 43,000 renewals at $11.6). A good portion of that should go towards enriching its human resource, upgrading its infrastructure and marketing. That way, KeNIC can catch up with South Africa's ZA Central Registry (ZACR).

By Mwendwa Kivuva, Internet Governance enthusiast
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Mwenda,The R75.00 .ZA price is probably an Vika Mpisane  –  Oct 09, 2019 3:05 AM PST

Mwenda,

The R75.00 .ZA price is probably an average market price, not the wholesale price (i.e. the price that registrars pay to ZACR), which is around R50.00 the last time I checked. Other than that, I agree that uniform pricing of registration and renewal fees gives customer certainty, and hopefully KENIC will explore this change. Of course, more marketing is needed for all ccTLD domains to continue growing. This has always been necessary and became more necessary once the post-2012 "new" gTLDs kicked in. I get a sense that all ccTLDs have experienced slower growth since 2012 due to the increased gTLDs.

Growth Strategies for ccTLDs Mwendwa Kivuva  –  Oct 09, 2019 3:24 AM PST

Thank you Vika for those observations. On .za pricing, I have indicated "R75 is the end-user price", not the wholesale to Registrars. But thanks for indicating the Registry price of R50 (around $3.2). This actually very low. Wondering if our other Registries can be sustainable if they go that low. :-)

As an experienced strategic level expert in the ccTLD space in Africa, would you have any general recommendations to a registry like KeNIC on how it can increase the numbers?

In Kenya, I don't see a lot of the new gTLDs. I think the csTLDs here main competition is still the traditional .com, .org ...

Mwenda,You already capture some of the growth Vika Mpisane  –  Oct 09, 2019 4:38 AM PST

Mwenda,

You already capture some of the growth strategies in your article: uniform pricing, marketing & robust infrastructure. I would add to that the need to appoint the registry operator over longer terms (5 years, at least). This will allow the operator (in this case, KENIC) space and case to invest its resources with an assurance to recover their investment. Otherwise, it makes no business case for KENIC to invest heavily in the registry infrastructure if it won't be given time to recover its investment.

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