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Is Africa Ready for a dotAfrica gTLD Future?

Gideon Rop

It's approximately 2 months to go before the grand application process for the new gTLDs begins, ICANN the international internet body made a revolutionary announcement in June that is going to change the entire internet namespace. With the current 21 gTLDs, the world is bracing for a surge of close to 500 new applications. Among the domains of my interest is the .Africa gTLD.

Whereas the graph of other continents mostly those of the developed have been on the plateau for a while now having reached peak a few years ago, Africa is experiencing its rise. The internet experience graph is rising higher by the minute. This has attracted the interest of giant internet firms such as Google and Facebook. Google, for instance, has offices established to drive its mammoth business across the African region especially the sub-Saharan. Facebook among others have satelite staff managing the affairs under the emerging markets in Africa and Middle East.

I wonder though how sparse or closely clustered the African digital Map is on the Google or Facebook walls. I would like to see how updates on the map grow and if it is constant or spiky and unpredictable. Someone called Africa the Dark Continent riddled with epidemics, War, poverty and generally insurmountable number of maladies. On the contrary though, I would like to view Africa as not only an emerging market but a potential force to reckon with; an equal player among many whose quest for a digital future must be considered with indiscriminate attitude and altitude.

Back to the .Africa issue, this project has particularly been a hot issue — almost too hot a brick to handle with bare hands — and with several organizations setting up to apply come 2012. Question is however who really is the best messenger to drive this matter? Dotconnectafrica has been on the forefront of this quest, putting forward not only .africa but daring to include .Afriqya and .Afrique the Arabic and French versions respectively.

During the ICANN meeting recently in Senegal Dakar, DCA President Ms. Sophia Bekele outlined the various issues that must be carefully looked into to ensure that the process is not only smooth but successful. Africa must not be allowed to fail in this watershed moment, it must come through unscathed. It would be interesting to see the African gTLD championed and successfully setup.

The resulting registry must not only revert back the resources from the domain but also ensure that Africa's content is well managed and availed for and by African continent since it will not only be a unique moment but a chance to prove to the entire wide world that Africa can do it right!

By Gideon Rop, Sr. Project Engineer: DCA Registry Services Kenya and ISOC Kenya Member. He is an Internet Governance enthusiast and technology critic, an active member of ISOC Kenya who participates regularly in Internet Governance, DNS and Security Fora, and in ICANN GNSO working groups.

Related topics: DNS, Registry Services, ICANN, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

Without some Ubuntu, we will surely fail.... McTim  –  Nov 03, 2011 12:55 PM PDT

With at least 3 bids, there is bound to be unhappiness and conflict.  All it takes is one or two countries objecting under the DAG rules and .africa will be put off to the next round.  That is how i think it will play out unless we find some common ground soon.

I'm all for a .africa managed by an African registry that also uses an African back-end provider.  As far as I know, there is only one potential bidder that has committed to this ideal.  Can DCA make the same commitment?

Ubuntu we must have, real Ubuntu that Gideon Rop  –  Nov 04, 2011 12:50 AM PDT

Ubuntu we must have, real Ubuntu that does not seek to manipulate under the table, Ubuntu that will ensure that every single cent trickles back to the source which is unmistakably African Populace. Unless past mistakes can be sorted out and the pertinent issues surrounding the .Africa issues can be addressed, am afraid but also confident, Dotconnectafrica has done enough ground work don't you think?

If you use a non-African back-end operator, how will this benefit Africa? McTim  –  Nov 04, 2011 2:03 AM PDT

Hi Gideon,

In addition to the non-African registry operator question, I see the AU involvement as vital to the success of .africa, as the DAG at http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/evaluation-questions-criteria-clean-19sep11-en.pdf says:

"Geographic Names 21
(d) a name listed as a UNESCO region or appearing on the “Composition of macro geographic (continental) or regions, geographic subregions, and selected economic and other groupings” list. See Module 2 for complete definitions and criteria. 

An application for a country or territory name, as defined in the Applicant
Guidebook, will not be approved. (b) If a geographic name, attach documentation
of support or non-objection from all relevant governments or public authorities.
See the documentation requirements in Module 2 of the Applicant Guidebook."

and Module 2 says:

"It is the applicant’s responsibility to:
• identify whether its applied-for gTLD string falls into any of the above categories; and
• identify and consult with the relevant governments or public authorities; and
• identify which level of government support is required."

In other words, it's not "under the table", it's essential for any application.

As for the "ground work", some of it has been exemplary and positive, while some has been truly reprehensible.  This is not the type of conduct that will endear a potential bidder to the ICANN Board.  In fact, I see this as a real show-stopper for DCA's bid, but YMMV.

Dear Mr. McTim,From your comments to this Gideon Rop  –  Nov 04, 2011 11:01 PM PDT

Dear Mr. McTim,
From your comments to this particular Blog Note, it is clear that your posturing is so vehemently opposed to DCA. This is rather unfortunate, and reveals a sinister under-current that should concern every serious DotAfrica stakeholder. Your expressed sentiments point to the troubles ahead.

In your posted comments, you have made statements such as: “All it takes is one or two countries objecting under the DAG rules and .africa will be put off to the next round.”

Is this a veiled threat that the DotAfrica process will be frustrated based on needless objections? What would be the bases of such an objection? Would people simply object to DCA’s DotAfrica application simply for the sake of objection?

Again, you have expressed the opinion: “I see the AU involvement as vital to the success of .africa”. DCA believes that the AU is simply to endorse DotAfrica as a stakeholder but not be involved in it. At this time, the ‘involvement’ of the AU is not helping DotAfrica. Why should the AU be involved? The AU is an intergovernmental organization that is not in the Internet Domain Name business, and does not have to be involved in DotAfrica to serve a presumed ‘African Interest’.

Regarding the issue of ‘Africa’ as a geographic name, any bid for DotAfrica will of course go through a Geographic Names Panel Evaluation according to the ICANN gTLD Applicant’s Guidebook, and this is where the AU is important, but this requirement for Geographic Names Evaluation does not imply that AU should take full ownership of the process, and use this as a criteria to fail or pass gTLD applications that are being evaluated at ICANN.

Again you have also used another phrase which reveals your evident bias against DCA: “I see this as a real show-stopper for DCA's bid.” It is really obvious that you expect DCA’s show to be stopped one way or the other. Would that be based on due process grounded on transparency and accountability or based on arms-twisting, blackmail, sabotage, illegality, or to use one of your own words “reprehensible” conduct?

Again your statement: “I'm all for a .africa managed by an African registry that also uses an African back-end provider. As far as I know, there is only one potential bidder that has committed to this ideal. Can DCA make the same commitment?” shows that you an open supporter of ARC.

What type of commitment do you expect DCA to make? Sell-out to a Cabal or maintain its independence and remain loyal to the ICANN process in the face of unnecessary pressures and being forced against its will it to participate in murky relationships with people that are openly antagonistic to its initiative? Is “an African registry that also uses an African back-end operator” an ICANN new gTLD requirement or an extra-ordinary conditionality that is now being imposed by those who seek to take secret control of the process by issuing edicts and decrees left right and centre! Is this free competition? Why not let ICANN decide based on the Guidebook and other gTLD application evaluation criteria? If ARC’s interest on DotAfrica is simply for the registry operations, why should whatever ARC believes is useful in marketing itself as a business enterprise be used as a criteria to decide who should apply for DotAfrica?

Hi Gideon,I will try to answer your McTim  –  Nov 05, 2011 3:37 AM PDT

Hi Gideon,

I will try to answer your queries in order below:

My “opposition” to DCA, if you can call it that, is based on the attacks DCA has made on multiple stakeholders over the last several years.  The espoused “All’s Fair in Love and War” attitude is not the way that Internet governance has been done over the last 40 years.  Instead, we rely on collaboration, cooperation and communication.  There is nothing sinister about evidence based decision making, that’s all I am trying to do in this case. 

I wasn’t making any threats, veiled or not, in fact, I am assuming that the objection would come from a government or government friendly to DCA. I am assuming from the aggressive attitude of the organisation, that DCA would try and block any competitors bid via government interference.  I fear that if a competitor is successful in the ICANN round, regardless of the AU outcome, DCA would ask a friendly government to object.  I would be happy if you were to assert that my fears are unfounded.

I think I explained earlier that the AU is the governmental body most closely aligned with the name of the continent, that’s why I think they are vital to the process in terms of arranging non-objections from governments.  I wouldn’t encourage them to become the Supporting Organisation for a .africa bid, which would be inappropriate IMHO.

I expect the “showstopper” to come from the accountable, transparent ICANN process.  ICANN will employ a background checking service, which I expect, will turn up the DCA content that I find objectionable and include it in their report.  I expect that the ICANN Board members would not grant a TLD to an organisation that uses such aggressive tactics.  That is just my well-informed political analysis of the situation, which is why I said that YMMV.

The terms ”arms-twisting, blackmail, sabotage, illegality” are all very heavily loaded.  If you are going to accuse people of breaking the law, you’d better cite which laws were broken and how.  AFAIK, there are zero laws regulating TLD processes, so no other stakeholder can be acting “illegally”.  There is a saying that “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, in other words, DCA’s hyper-aggressive attitude is winning it few friends inside the ICANN community.  This is why I think that ultimately DCA will not succeed.  I think you’ve destroyed your chances before the bidding has even begun.  Feel free to reject my political analysis and insert your own.

I support the idea that we can run our own TLD using a local registry provider, whether that is ARC or another African registry operator makes no difference to me, as I have no financial interest in the outcome, nor do I expect to have any going forward.  If you can’t commit to using a local registry operator, then those monies will go abroad.  The whole idea of .africa is to reduce our dependence on .com/.net/.org, thereby reducing that fight of capital.

The commitment that I expect DCA to make is to act appropriately in terms of the content they publish and to uphold your ideals being pro-African. The condition of using an African back-end is mine and mine alone, not the AU’s or ICANN’s.  I expect that ICANN will decide based on their own published criteria.

Your ‘informed political analysis’ with a confused outcome, Thomas Kamanzi  –  Nov 09, 2011 5:55 PM PDT

Dear McTim,

Let us begin by acknowledging that you have openly admitted that you are opposed to DCA.  Therefore, no one expects you to be unbiased in your understanding and analysis of the issue.  However you will not be forgiven if you arrive at any wrong conclusions that expose your ignorance or betray your confusion. Since you dabbled into ‘analysis’ it is assumed that you should give an educated ‘analysis’ based on a proper understanding of the issue at stake.  For example you concluded your open animus against DCA by stating: “I expect that ICANN will decide based on their own published criteria.” However, before expressing this simple truth, you had gone about presenting your ‘ informed political analysis’ on a matter that is entirely legal, technical and financial to enable you arrive at your understanding that: “the ICANN Board members would not grant a TLD to an organization that uses such aggressive tactics.”

O McTim! What are we expected to believe from you:

a) that ICANN will act based on their own published criteria; or
b) that ICANN will forget their objective published criteria and judge DCA subjectively on the basis of ‘aggression’ or ‘hyper-aggression’? 

As thinking people, we elect to believe that ICANN will act based on its objective criteria, and for this reason DCA remains confident that the ICANN process would yield an acceptable outcome for DCA simply because our faith in the ICANN process is based on ICANN’s commitment to the ideals of objectivity, transparency, and independence in the service of the global public interest of accountable Internet Governance. DCA will continue to count on ICANN’s integrity.

However, even though we do not accept your ‘informed political analysis’ because of its confused outcome, DCA has every reason to suspect you of engaging in discussions with some ICANN Board Members to enable you come to the understanding that you presently have.  Are you lobbying against DCA with any ICANN Board Members?

Again, we think that your ‘informed political analysis’ is wrong since you have completely missed the point, not only regarding ICANN but also regarding the AU.  Evidently there is a mismatch between what role you think the AU should play and what role the AU and members of the AU DotAfrica Task force expect the organization to play.  You see the AU as “vital to the process in terms of arranging non-objections from governments”.  If in your honest opinion you do not expect the AU to become the supporting organization for a DotAfrica bid, then you are closer to the reasoning of DCA than you think or care to admit.  If you have read the AU Briefing note on DotAfrica, (http://www.dotconnectafrica.org/2011/05/dca-commentary-au-briefing-note-dotafrica/) published by its Infrastructure and Energy Division, you would have known that the AU intends to apply for DotAfrica and is seeking the support of African governments to enable it carry out this objective. 

A modified strategy that is being pushed by the AU DotAfrica Task Force is either;

i) For prospective applicants to form a Consortium and sign agreements with the AU (that also includes the AU as a member of the consortium that will bid) to enable them apply to ICANN for DotAfrica); or
ii) For the DotAfrica name string and similar strings such as DotAfrique and DotAfrikia to be reserved and made unavailable to enable the AU separately negotiate the delegation of DotAfrica gTLD outside the ICANN process. Therefore your ‘informed political analysis’ is simply based on naiveté and your understanding has nothing to do with the published intentions of the African Union Commission and what the organization is presently doing to take ownership and full control of the DotAfrica process.

In any case, even though we believe that you are actually clueless about the AU’s intentions, it is still understandable why you really expect the AU to conveniently arrange non-objection from governments, since you expect DCA to rely on the help of a friendly government to object.  The point is that you would rather the AU provides the form of protection that will be beneficial to your ‘friends’ so that a secret deal can be worked out to give the registry functions to your “African-based registry operator” that also uses an “African back-end provider”.  It is clear that your ilk are actually more interested in what they expect to benefit by cooperating and collaborating with the AU Task Force members, whilst simply paying lip service to the ICANN process. What a crying shame!

Finally, please be kindly informed that DCA does not make any false accusations against anybody or any organization.  For example, DCA has evidence that some of its endorsements obtained independently, for example with the Corporate Council on Africa were sabotaged by its detractors.  If the matter ever goes to litigation, then we shall provide the necessary evidence to support our claims in a competent court of Law.

In conclusion, DCA does not think that it has any problems with ICANN or with the global ICANN community or ICANN Board Members.  We believe that we can take our chances in a transparent ICANN new gTLD process, and it is only the detractors of DCA who are not confident of making a successful application to ICANN that are presently looking for other ways of gaining control of DotAfrica through opaque arrangements. 

We rest our case for now.

OK - great. So now we have people signing up to circleid just to post personal attacks Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 09, 2011 6:41 PM PDT

I see from a quick google that you are "Newsletter Editor tkamanzi@dotconnectafrica.org" so nice, that's the "Hi, I am thomas kamanzi" part handled.

Now - I dont know about true or false accusations, but every single DCA press release, blog post, circleid post in this thread etc that I see starts out in an attacking mood, with words like "abuse of power", "sabotaged" etc.  And I see that you folks dont even bother to declare who you are before you start accusing people of everything except possibly farting in church.

So - why should you be taken seriously when you attack other people who are much more regular contributors on circleid?

I haven't heard of your initiative before this thread but I can assure you that it is set for failure if you set out to do everything that's not recommended in "how to win friends and influence people"

Amusing "vote no" campaigns Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 10, 2011 12:55 AM PDT

http://www.dotconnectafrica.org/yes-campaign/vote-no/

Vote no to Nii Quaynor
Vote no to Pierre Dandjinou
Vote no to .. etc etc

You've got the wrong end of the stick.... McTim  –  Nov 09, 2011 11:55 PM PDT

Let us begin by acknowledging that I have openly admitted that I am opposed to the negative content published by DCA.  I am not opposed to DCA itself (that was your colleague's spin on the situation).  In fact, I have publicly stated my admiration many times for the outreach and publicity work done by DCA for .africa. 

I don't understand how you think such a bland statement such as “I expect that ICANN will decide based on their own published criteria.” has any animosity.  This is a "false accusation" in and of itself, which disproves your statement that your organisation does not make false accusations against anyone.  Your "Vote No" campaign is full of such falsehoods and puts the entire Internet community in Africa in a bad light.

For the record, I have never discussed or lobbied any ICANN board Members on .africa or DCA.  My understanding is based solely on current and previous drafts of the DAG.

As far as my "ilk" are concerned, I don't speak for anyone else, but I am solely interested in the development of Internet infrastructure and governance in Africa.  I do not expect to benefit in any way from any .africa bid.

I fully expect the AU to offer letters of support (or non-objection) to bidders as specified in the DAG.  I have said up-thread that to do otherwise would not be appropriate.  I am not interested in any "secret deals", to suggest otherwise is equally inappropriate.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding you may have.

African Internet Community leaders should stop using the AU to achieve their purpose! Thomas Kamanzi  –  Nov 10, 2011 1:41 AM PDT

Dear McTim,

Thanks for taking the time to clarify any perceived misunderstandings, and thanks also for not being opposed to DCA, and for your often stated public admiration for DCA’s outreach and publicity work done for DotAfrica. We wish other people were as objective and understanding for DCA’s committed efforts.

However, we have no intention of nitpicking on statements, since we only expect more objectivity and sympathy for DCA. The point is that the No Campaigns are simply a protest against perceived victimization and injustice since DCA has been shut out and sidelined, without any channels for recourse.

Therefore, we repeat that we do not make false accusations against anybody. >Everything we have stated in our “No Campaigns” can be substantiated and defended. Moreover, on the contrary, it is not DCA that puts the entire Internet community in Africa in a bad light.

For example, we have always insisted that the AU Task Force on DotAfrica should have been more careful in dragging the esteemed African Union Commission into the ‘politics’ of DotAfrica since the AU never had the intention of applying directly for DotAfrica. It is the so-called leaders of the African Internet Community who have advocated for community ownership of DotAfrica, but even so, insist that the AU should own and keep DotAfrica in trust, meanwhile the same African Internet Community leaders have vested interests in DotAfrica, since they have also floated different proposals and aligned themselves with various prospective applicants. 

Therefore against such open ‘conflict of interest’ DCA could not put its fate in the hands of those who are firmly opposed to DCA. That our endorsements have been sabotaged is common knowledge. It is such underarm tactics that puts the Internet community in bad light. DCA has only acted in self-defense.

Accordingly, DCA’s firm position is that everyone should follow ICANN’s due process, and if the leaders of the African Internet community are interested in applying for DotAfrica, they should not use the AU to achieve their purpose by using the political influence and diplomatic powers of a respected Pan-Africana organization. They can do it on their own by applying directly at ICANN, and also allow DCA to apply based on its existing endorsements from the AU, and let ICANN evaluate independently, and everyone should accept the final outcome.

We hope this clarifies. We thank you again for helping to clear the air.

Thomas Kamanzi, DCA Public Communications

African Internet Community leaders MUST use the AU to achieve their purpose! McTim  –  Nov 10, 2011 6:43 AM PDT

Thomas,

You've gotten your letter from the AU.  Now, your competitors would like the same.  The ICANN process calls for it.  Let them get the same endorsement (or non-objection) and you all go to ICANN on the same level.

Sounds like fair competition to me. 

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on the "Vote No" campaigns, as one man's scurrilous, indefensible attacks seem to be another man's self-defense.

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The fantasies never end John Levine  –  Nov 04, 2011 7:55 AM PDT

The .ASIA domain, which you have probably never heard of, has 195,000 registrations for a continent that is home to close to 4 billion people. Many, perhaps most, of the domains are just parked by domain speculators, including over 14,000 at Sedo alone.

Why would anyone expect .AFRICA to be any less of a waste of money and effort?  The fantasies never end.

"....The fantasies never end" Gideon Rop  –  Nov 04, 2011 11:19 PM PDT

Quite frankly, its easy to try and compare scenarios when it comes to projects that are endeared to serve the future, the dotAfrica gTLD particularly as case on point, as i see from most of your articles they try to warn or perhaps give predictions of the process as well as the future of the gTLD's expected come 2012.

My very honest view is that trying to compare the .Asia and the .Africa cases may only serve to create a fear vacuum. To further call it a waste of money and effort is trying to pre-suppose, and that totally goes against the spirit of bringing Africa particularly at par with the rest .

Nothing that has ever been successful has been achieved by comparisons, and if that was the case competition would cease, i believe that this would stand as the chance Africa has in fact i like to call it a watershed moment for Africa to get its unique self online and with the rising broadband speeds we consider Africa to be the next big thing, therefore why not go for .Africa , why not risk to find a better place online ?

If you can find any one identity of "africa" rather than ghana vs egypt vs tunisia etc Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 05, 2011 4:50 AM PDT

Yes the African Union exists, but "Africa" as an identity people will want to pay money to get a domain on is about as likely as "Asia" say.

Even .us isn't as popular as .com .. and the only continent TLD that's making money is .. .au (which of course is a single country as well).  So yes I agree with John that it is largely going to be a pipe dream.

I also support the points McTim has been making - that the aggressive tactics being displayed (even in this thread) are not going to help your case over much.  In other words, you need to decide whether this is as valuable and useful a proposition as you think it is, that you are ready to accuse anybody at all who disagrees with it using loaded language of the sort you've used.

Some differences Kevin Murphy  –  Nov 05, 2011 5:03 AM PDT

You may be correct, but there are some notable differences between .asia and .africa.

-- Unlike Asia, the Latin script is in common use in Africa's official languages.

-- African ccTLD penetration is relatively low. A .africa could exploit greenfield opportunities in future rather than having to persuade current registrants to switch from .jp, .cn, etc.

-- Africa seems, to me at least, to have a more pervasive "continental identity" than pretty much any other continent. Witness how the football World Cup in South Africa was claimed for the whole of Africa, for example.

This all misses the point John Levine  –  Nov 05, 2011 9:11 AM PDT

I don't disagree that capacity building in Africa is a good idea.  But it's absurd to waste half a million dollars on a vanity TLD. How about spending that money on community web sites, the local infrastructure so community members can build and use them?

Verisign, Neustar, and Afilias are not my favorite organizations, but the familiar TLDs are cheap and reliable, and as I keep pointing out, it's a fantasy to imagine that yet more vanity TLDs will accomplish anything other than enrich the people who hold the keys to the TLD.

Also note - when you do this sort of advocacy, full disclosure is always a good idea Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 08, 2011 8:20 AM PDT

eg: you might want to add a line to that article like "I work for Wananchi, and my CEO is on the board of DotConnectAfrica" for example.

The question is whether the African leadership is pragmatic enough to deliver a new gTLD for Africa Samuel Ochanji  –  Nov 08, 2011 10:05 AM PDT

Gideon, thanks for raising this important issue. Of course Africa is ready. I don't believe there's an Internet population threshold that must be met for a region to have a new gTLD. Africa is already an important geographic region of ICANN, and it is already recognized that Internet penetration and usage are increasing in line with improvements in telecommunications infrastructure even as economies grow and living standards of the people change.  So long as there's a need in the market, then the market will absorb the supply. There are over 120 million Africans with access to the internet. The DNS industry in Africa is still largely underdeveloped because most of our ccTLD registries have never adopted a good commercial and governance model that serves the local Internet population adequately like the European registries. Besides, many of them cannot afford world class registry back-end solutions thus creating headache for registrants.

In some countries in Africa, domain names cost $300 per year! Of course there's need for some disruptive innovation in the market, but then we have proposed a cross marketing model for ccTLD registries and .africa will only complement, not replace them.

To respond to McTim, there's no African backend registry service provider that we know of, or at least, that we knew of when we issued an expression of interest back in February this year. Almost all of the African ccTLD registries (except one to my knowledge) rely on non African backend registry solutions DotAsia uses Afilias (which is not Asian) as its backend registry solution and many applicants will choose the best registry services to ensure they have a smooth technical evaluation run with ICANN and for stability amongst African internet users.

I think the question is not whether Africa is ready for a new gTLD but whether the continent's decision making processes and leadership is pragmatic enough to allow the delivery a new gTLD for the continent. Out of the expected 500 applications for new gTLDs that ICANN is expecting in the first quarter of next year, only one, as far as we know, will come from Africa. DotAfrica.

Nobody opposes AU involvement; AU as a stakeholder should be involved .  However, AU should be an endorsing party and not a participant in the process.  However, should AU insist on being an applicant, AU but must not receive any preferential treatment from ICANN. Our argument is that the AU can apply for DotAfrica if it wants to, like any other gTLD applicant that follows the stipulations of the ICANN Guidebook. We proposed a model and were endorsed by the AU giving us a mandate and we went campaigning and building the case for a .africa. We have done a 6-year campaign until a few moths ago, two more contenders emerged to piggyback on our body of work. We hope that now that ethics and conflict of interest issues are now being taken more seriously, ICANN will also evaluate applications on the basis of ethics and legality, the same way ICANN is subjecting its Board members and Bid Evaluatorsto stricter ethical standards. Competition is welcome but competition must occur on a level-playing field.

McTim: Anyone Seeking Endorsement for DotAfrica must first of all Acknowledge DCA’ prior Endorseme Thomas Kamanzi  –  Nov 13, 2011 12:28 PM PDT

We wish to use Samuel's posting to further clarify our position and also respond to McTim's last posting so as to kill 2 birds with one stone.

Anyone Seeking Endorsement for DotAfrica must first of all Acknowledge DCA’ prior Endorsement

Dear McTim,

Alas, the position already adopted by DCA’s detractors is quite different from your understanding of the issue. If they had first of all acknowledged DCA’s prior endorsement before seeking their own endorsement, then their activities would probably be deemed as honorable and above board; that is, if analyzed from our perspective. However, this is not what they have done. In our estimation they do not believe in fair competition like you probably do. They engage in sabotage of DCA’s endorsement legitimately obtained from the African Union, or sought from prospective partners, such as the Corporate Council on Africa; and continue to deny DCA’s endorsement that was obtained as far back as 2009, and also contrive to obtain the same endorsement from the AU. It is interesting to note that despite all their shenanigans, they have not succeeded.

In any case, DCA is opposed to a situation whereby the endorsement for DotAfrica would be given to all comers –that is, multiple endorsements to multiple prospective applicants for the same gTLD string. This makes ‘nonsense’ of the process. Why endorse at all, if multiple prospective applicants can receive the same endorsement for the same gTLD string? The Guidebook principles are very clear. If several successfully-evaluated applicants for a community gTLD string go into the same string contention set, then community-priority evaluation will be used to resolve the matter to allow the new gTLD be delegated by ICANN based on the agreed community priority.

So far, to the best of our knowledge, the detractors of DCA have only succeeded in conveying the impression that DotAfrica should be community-owned, and that the African Union Commission should lead and own the process of obtaining DotAfrica and holding it in trust for the community.  Why DotAfrica should belong to a ‘community’ has not been made clear by the so-called leaders of this community; meanwhile the same community leaders who lack independence are employed in the AU DotAfrica Task Force have also floated separate DotAfrica proposals of their own. The African Union on the other hand argues on the basis of sovereignty over the name ‘Africa’ and seeks to directly own it by having DotAfrica included in the List of Reserved Names, so as to make the gTLD unavailable to other applicants, so as to enable it set up a different process for the negotiation and delegation of this gTLD outside the ICANN new gTLD programme. This is what some of DCA's detractors would prefer; a situation whereby DotAfrica is simply handled to them on a golden platter that belongs to the AU, thus obviating the need for them to engage in fair competion at the ICANN level.

Again, we reiterate our firm belief that anyone competing for a community-owned DotAfrica should first of all provide the relevant endorsement from the community before even seeking any endorsement from the AU. We already know that in the present circumstances such an endorsement will be very hard to obtain by the late entrants since the AU is also seeking DotAfrica on its own through a separate process.

The Ghana-sponsored 'Vote of Confidence' obtained by AfTLD at Accra does not count for an official endorsement, and the ARC lacks any support within the community and has so far not received any endorsement from anybody. It is these reasons that explain why DCA has unwaveringly committed itself to a more transparent and globally-accepted ICANN process. DCA will continue to count on its existing early-bird endorsement that was legitimately obtained from the AU when our detractors did not know, or were not even thinking, about DotAfrica at the time.

Accordingly McTim, there is no reason for anyone to imply that they are seeking the same endorsement to enable them compete with DCA on the same grounds at ICANN. That will never happen. We are very different from our detractors.

We pride ourselves on our independent vision, fair play and independent plan of action regarding DotAfrica even as we accept the AU as an endorsing stakeholder. Our detractors on the other hand, by their own making, have no independence whatsoever and insist on the illegitimate use of official AU machinery and political influence to hijack DotAfrica. Please sir, note the difference!

Initially, our detractors had hoped for multiple endorsements from the AU, and up to 3 prospective applications for DotAfrica to be submitted to ICANN. But at this time their game plan has already shifted to that of wanting to establish an AU-approved Consortium that hopes to be awarded the mandate by the AU, if the AU can get the DotAfrica gTLD name strings expressly reserved for it by ICANN. Therefore, we do not think they are committed to fair competition. It is DCA that is fully committed to fair competition at the ICANN level hence we sought early endorsement from the AU and others, and undertook an independent global campaign for DotAfrica at a global level.

On the issue of our No Campaigns, we have repeatedly clarified, and have nothing more to add, so let us agree to disagree.  Here is our formal clarification of the past:
http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs053/1102516344150/archive/1106519098989.html

Thank You once again.
Thomas Kamanzi, DCA Public Communications
www.dotconnectafrica.org

But your endorsement has been withdrawn... McTim  –  Nov 13, 2011 1:52 PM PDT

Thomas,

If you truly believe in competition for this string, then you wouldn't complain that others are seeking an endorsement that you got (long before the gTLD process was finalised).  Now that your endorsement has been withdrawn all bids are now on a level playing field.  Since the ICANN DAG calls for support (or no objection) by a continent wide body, it MUST be the AU who offers this support (or non-objection).

Your position is highly illogical in that what you are calling for is exactly that which you criticize. In other words, you are in favor of a rigged, non-competitive process, as long as DCA is the beneficiary.  If you are against the idea that the AU can support multiple bids, then you don't want true competition in the ICANN process.  If the AU can endorse one and only one bid, then that is exactly the situation Gideon speaks of upthread when he said;

but this requirement for Geographic Names Evaluation does not imply that AU should take full ownership of the process, and use this as a criteria to fail or pass gTLD applications that are being evaluated at ICANN.

For the record, while DCA has certainly spent more money on garnering support for your .africa bid, other people had the idea to create .africa long before DCA.

So now I am confused as to your position, does DCA want true competition and have the AU endorse multiple bidders so that all can tick the same boxes in the ICANN new gTLD process, or do you want the AU to endorse one (and only one) bid, thus locking out all others from the ICANN process?  You've previously said you want the former, but now it sounds like you want the latter.

As I write this, I've just received a mail from the Kictanet list with the RFP for .africa attached.

It seems you are going to get your wish, and they AU will chooose one bidder as a partner:

This Request for Proposal aims at selecting the best entity based on management and business case proposal, including revenue generation, re-investment into the African continent, and sustainability mechanism to partner with the Africa Union commission in a view to present a technically and economically sound proposal which meets the requirements of the Applicant Guidebook of the coming launch of the ICANN's new round of gTLDs.

As I understand it your comment is that you don't have a monopoly in the bidding process? Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 14, 2011 2:26 AM PDT

Then why have a bidding process at all?

And what does this boil down to - the AU, you fear, favoring another set of commercial interests over the commercial interests of your organization / the organizations of your principals?

And is that grounds for a high decibel and hostile campaign?

Do consider that your negative tactics are guaranteed to cause negative reactions. You are making every effort to alienate stakeholders here.  And, it looks like, your efforts are meeting with the expected success.

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