|Status Active||Registration restrictions None specified yet|
|Introduced Not officially introduced; Official proposal in 2006|
TLD type Generic top-level domain
Intended use African and Pan African Constituency, African Union
Actual use General Availability TBD
.Africa is the proposed Internet generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) for the African and Pan African communities and users wherever they may reside. The .africa gTLD serves as a regional domain for individuals and entities based in and out of Africa.
- Map of Africa
- DCA Trust Yes2dotAfrica Campaign initiative
- UNECA AUC and African Government Endorsements
- Governance Model
- Global Advisory Board
- DCA preparation and application to ICANN
- The AUC Initiative
- The AU DotAfricaTaskForce
- AUCs attempt to Reserve the Africa Name
- DCA Trust Opposition to the AUC Request to Reserve Africa Name
- ICANNs Response to AUCs Request to Reserve Africa Name
- AUC becomes a member of ICANN GAC
- DCAs Opposition to AU RFP Uniforms appointment
- List of Countries Supporting the AUC Reserve Name
- The AU RFP for Africa
- DCA Trusts Refusal to Participate in the AU RFP
- UniforumZACR application to ICANN as proxy for the AUC
- Steering Committee
- DCA objection to ZACR Application
- AUCZACR objection to DCA Application
- Other Objections of African Union to DCA
- Africa in official dispute with ICANN DCA Trust vs ICANN IRP
- A New Disagreement with DCA and ICANN
- DCA wins Ex Parte Application for Temporary Restraining Order
- DCA wins Preliminary Injunction April 12 2016
- DCA Trust vs ICANN Court Case Remanded to State Court
Map of Africa
The .Africa gTLD has not yet been delegated to any organization as registry operator. The .Africa application that was submitted by DotConnectAfrica Trust is now the subject of an unresolved disagreement with ICANN (DCA Trust vs ICANN) following an Independent Review Panel (IRP) Process that was invoked by DCA Trust under ICANN’s accountability mechanism in October 2013. The IRP was administrated by the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR) of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) New York, US.
DCA Trust had passed all the new gTLD applicant evaluation criteria, but before the Initial Evaluation (IE) result was issued, a Governmental Advisory Committee GAC Objection Advice that had been issued in Beijing in April 2013 was later accepted by the ICANN Board in early June 2013 which caused the ICANN Board to instruct ICANN staff that DCA Trust’s .Africa new gTLD application will not be approved. This had caused the non-completion of the evaluation of DCA Trust’s application; which then led DCA Trust to challenge the ICANN Board decision through a series of accountability mechanism.
DCA Trust prevailed in the Independent Review Process ("IRP”) against ICANN when the Panel of jurists ruled on 9 July 2015, that ICANN violated its Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation; and therefore declared “that both the actions and inactions of the Board with respect to the application of DCA Trust relating to the .AFRICA gTLD were inconsistent with the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of ICANN”.
As a result of the IRP declaration, the ICANN Board resolved on July 16, 2015, to reinstate DCA’s application back to the new gTLD Process to complete initial evaluation. The IRP ruling also ordered ICANN to continue to refrain from delegating the .AFRICA gTLD to ZACR.
In January 20, 2016 took ICANN to the US Court regarding the way ICANN processed the IRP which declared DCA Trust the prevailing party in July 2015. The United States District Court, Central District of California in a ruling granted DCA Trust an Interim Relief for DotConnectAfrica and ordered ICANN to hold the delegation the .AFRICA top-level domain (TLD) to ZA Central Registry (ZACR). The same court also granted a Preliminary Injunction for DotConnectAfrica on April 12, 2016.
ICANN and ZACR both contested the ruling, the court dismissed ZACR from the case leading to the filing of an interlocutory appeal that will be heard in September 19, 2016.
The court has set the scheduling for the final jury trial for the .Africa case in February 28, 2017.
At its 16 July 2000 meeting in Yokohama, the ICANN board of directors adopted a policy for the introduction of new top-level domains. ICANN announced in August 2000, that it was inviting application for new gTLDs. An Irish company, called Rathbawn Computers Limited led by Edward Sweeny applied for .Africa and 19 other strings a comment brought up nearly 10 years later by the African DNS community at the UNECA, a Pan-African policy body that also endorsed in 2008 the .africa initiative of DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA), which evidenced that UNECA is a place where such forums used to take place instead of the AUC. It appears that the concerted effort was made by few groups on the applicant at the time to thwart Rarhbawan’s application at ICANN which did not enable it to succeed. In 2009, a comment was brought up nearly 10 years later by the African DNS community at the UNECA, a Pan-African policy body that also endorsed the DCA Trust’s .africa in 2008, discussing that UNECA is the ideal place where such forums used to take place instead of the AUC.
Later on in 2004, a dotafrica.org domain name was registered under NiiQuaynor’s name, which also claimed to a dotafrica project. However, there was no proposal behind it.
Sophia Bekele who was serving on ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO) in 2005, having initiated and championing the policy dialogue over Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) that eventually allowed the global community to use a domain name in their native language or script, also initiated the .africagTLD during her work on New gTLD policy development at gNSO. Sophia’s collaborative work alongside her colleagues, who also initiated other regional TLDs such as .asia and .lat. eventually led to the guidebook/rulebook for applicants under the NewgTLD program that ICANN approved in year 2011 in Singapore. Sophia then made the first presentation of her .africa proposal in 2006 to ICANN African community on .Africa. In 2008, her DotAfrica initiative was one of the sponsors of the ICANN international meeting at Brussels, Belgium, where she made a public announcement to the ICANN Board of her intention to apply for .Africa gTLD at the ICANN public Forum. Afterwards, the .Africa initiative that was started by Sophia Bekele received early endorsements and inter-governmental support from the offices of the executive secretary of the UNECA (UN Economic Commission for Africa) and the chairman of the African Union Commission (AUC) in 2008 and 2009 respectively. She then launched the highly acclaimed and successful "Yes2dotAfrica" global awareness campaign, with the aim of re-branding Africa using the .Africa Internet domain name. The "Yes2dotAfrica" campaign was then launched in Kenya She then launched the first highly acclaimed and successful "Yes2dotAfrica" global awareness campaign, for re-branding Africa using the .africa internet domain name was then launched in Kenya under DotConnectAfrica the non-profit initiative she founded. In 2012 DotConnectAfrica submitted their .Africa application.
DCA Trust Yes2dotAfrica Campaign initiative
Historically, there are two separate initiatives on .Africa TLD. The original initiative which is associated with DCA Trust that was based on the global Yes2dotAfrica campaign, was run from 2006 to 2011; and the second initiative which was eventually taken over by the AUC. The Yes2dotafrica is the first-ever global multilingual campaign that utilized (English, French, Arabic) social media infrastructure to promote .africa, .afrique and .afriqia to promote the advocacy of the benefits of DotAfricagTLD and technology transfer to Africa. As a result, the campaign has received a huge amount of positive feedback and global media coverage since its inception
UNECA, AUC and African Government Endorsements
DCA Trust is the first organization to obtain and receive endorsements for DotAfrica initiative from both the UNECA and the AUC highest offices in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The DCA held various meetings, presentations and clarifications on the matter of DotAfrica initiative with the official staffs of the respective organizations, including the benefits of DotAfrica to Africa, the DCA application to ICANN. In 2008 the Executive Secretary of the UNECA, H.E AbdoulieJanneh issued an official letter of endorsement, dated August 8, 2008, to express both his personal and UNECA’s support for my initiative to apply to ICANN for the .AFRICA TLD. The endorsement also recognized that the initiative would “contribute substantially to helping Africa bridge the digital divide” and would “certainly be a valuable attribute for individuals, corporations, professionals and entities active in the continent.
In 2009, after a number of meetings and discussions with the AUC staff to introduce the project and expound on the scope of the project, several meetings and clarifications made to AUC Commissioner of Infrastructure, Dr.Elham Ibrahim on the DotAfrica project, including clarifications on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development document on Internet name administration . Dr. Ibrahim wrote a letter of support for DCA. . During this period, DCA also met with AUC Deputy Chairperson, Mr. Erastus Mwencha and his deputy assistant and presented the value of .AFRICA, as well as letters of support from other institutions, such as UNECA and the Washington, D.C., office of the AU. . DCA also finally met with the office of AUC chairman H,E Jean Ping, discussed the .AFRICA project and its importance to Africa shortly thereafter, the AUC through Chairman Ping’s Office, issued an official letter of support for DCA, dated August 27, 2009. In the letter, Chairman Ping stated that the AUC supported DCA’s initiative to apply to ICANN for .AFRICA and that the AU was willing to assist DCA with coordinating the DotAfrica Initiative with African ministers and governments.
Several African Government such as Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and Lesotho. Have also provided similar endorsement letters to DCA. In 2010, DCA also obtained endorsements for the initiative from IDRU, a group that has pioneered the use of non-Latin-based languages on the Internet, which I thought would be useful for Africa, and the Corporate Council on Africa (“CCA”), a non-profit organization developed to promote business and investment between the United States and African nations.
Kenya (host country) Endorsement for DCA
In January 2012, DCA formally introduced the DotAfrica Initiative to the government of Kenya through the office of the Honorable Minister of Information & Communications of the Republic of Kenya Samuel L. Poghisio, E.G.H, M.P. DCA enumerated the benefits that would accrue to the host country of the DotAfrica Initiative, such as contributing to the foreign direct investment profile of Kenya and the country’s overall prestige as the potential host of the first Pan-African gTLD registry, and requested the official support and endorsement of the Kenyan government. On August 7, 2012, Kenya’s Minister for Information and Communications sent DCA a letter of endorsement, expressing the Ministry’s support for the DotAfrica Initiative.
The governance model proposed by DCA Trust as part of its .Africa initiative is based on a public private partnership (PPP) model that is led by the private sector with the general objective of improving the African Internet and business landscape.
Global Advisory Board
DCA Trust is led by a Global Advisory Board (GAB) whose members are technology analysts, visionaries, Internet domain industry experts, entrepreneurs, business executives and leaders from various sectors. The members of DCA Trust’s Global Advisory Board includes: Dr.YassinMshana, Sophia Bekele, Prof. S. Subbiah Subramanian, Prof. Tin Wee, YoavKeren, Philip Corwin, Salim Amin, Michael Macharia, Barry Ryan, Justine Chinyata, David Fick, NebiyuYosef, Harry Hare, ChimaOnyekwere, Antoine Bigirimana, David Teklit, James Sirleaf, John Bosley, TibebegebrielGoshu, HailuMengistu and Zaid Ali
DCA preparation and application to ICANN
Applicants for a new gTLD must submit a detailed application to ICANN that demonstrates the applicant’s technical, operational and financial capability to operate a TLD. The requirements and evaluation procedures are set forth in the 338-page AGB Applying for and preparing to operate a gTLD is a time-intensive and expensive process that requires specific expertise and careful planning, as well as significant financial resources.
In 2011, DCA began the process of selecting a registry services operator that would be equipped to handle the backend technical registry operation of the TLD and operation of the names registered to the TLD. After conducting a selection process that included technical and financial evaluation, as well as support from a host country, DCA reached an agreement with United Kingdom-based CentralNiC, to assist DCA to set up a registry services system in Africa, and also signed important agreements with Safaricom (Kenya) Ltd. and FINCOM Technologies (Kenya) Ltd. for the co-location of mission critical computer hardware and network technical infrastructure that would support the registry functions of DotAfricagTLD. In 2012, DCA Registry Services was set up in Nairobi, Kenya, to support the activities of DCA in securing and later operating the .AFRICA gTLD Aside from putting the GAB, DCA hired local staff, engineers and consultants in pursuit of setting up business in Kenya.
The DotAfrica .africagTLD application was submitted by DCA Trust during the application window that opened on 12 January 2012 and closed on 22 May 2012. DCA worked with CentralNic at the time of preparing and submitting its application to ICANN for .AFRICA to ensure that DCA’s application satisfied the main technical and operational requirements for gTLDs set forth in ICANN’s AGB. DCA Trust made explicit commitment in its .africa application to ICANN that the Trust will establish a full-service Internet registry which will be operated by DCA Registry Services Ltd. in accordance with the technical and operational criteria and other specifications stipulated by ICANN in the new gTLD Applicants' Guidebook. and hopes to win the mandate from ICANN for the management of the .africagTLD to enable it administer this resource on behalf of its Pan-African constituency and other stakeholders around the globe. The Mission and Purpose of the new gTLD applied-for by DCA Trust is contained in its application that was submitted to ICANN. DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA Trust) is a non-profit organization, with the Charitable Objects of the Trust Fund to realize certain charitable projects aimed at giving back to the community, such as the “miss.africa” and “generation.africa” to empower girls and young people in Africa in the field of technology. As well as building the capacity of the African ccTLDs.
The AUC Initiative
On 2–5 November 2009, immediately after the AUC endorsed DCA’s proposal for .Africa in October 2009, at a meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa, the AUC Oliver Tambo Declaration adopted at the extraordinary Communications and Information Technologies Ministerial Conference (CITMC), the African Union (AU) Ministers of Communications and Technology committed to "WORK TOGETHER to promote the use of Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) as they are a critical national resource whilst ensuring that the technical and administrative operations are at international standards to foster trust and use of African Domain Names in order to bring financial, economic and social-cultural benefits to Africa."
The AU DotAfricaTaskForce
On May 2010, the AUC set up a “AUC DotAfricaTaskForce” consisting of various members of AfriNIC, AfTLD and members of African ccTLDs to start setting up structures on how to implement the dotAfrica project. Dr.NiiQuaynor was Chairperson of the Task Force, while Mr. Pierre Dandjinou acted as Vice Chair of the Task Force. DCA was not invited to the group, even though AUC has endorsed its .africa initiative.
On 6–7 August 2010, in Abuja, Nigeria, the Abuja 2010 Declaration adopted a Declaration at the Third Ordinary Conference (CITMC-3), where the Ministers requested the African Union Commission (AUC) to ‘’Set up the structure and modalities for the Implementation of the dotAfrica project” This request followed the Addis Ababa Declaration on Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) adopted by the Summit of the AU Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa in January and February 2010, and the Executive Council Decision [EX.CL.559 (XVI)] that directed the AUC to promote better utilization and management of critical Internet resources.
In June 2011 an effort for the .Africa was proposed by a new organization called the Africa Registry Consortium (ARC). The ARC was formed by DNS (Pty) South Africa – a company owned by the directors of UniForum SA – and Convergence Investment Partners (CIP) – a private South African firm owned by Mr.AndileNgcaba. The ARC strategy was based on getting the support of members of the AUC DotAfrica Taskforce and, hoping to build support with the help of the AFTLD – which at that time had also positioned itself as a prospective applicant for .Africa
This ARC initiative, however, failed due to a public ‘No Campaign’ that had been undertaken against it by DCA Trust. Amongst other serious criticisms and accusations that had been levelled against the ARC by DCA Trust, include ‘business opportunism and being used as a vehicle to perpetrate a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) scam’. DCA Trust also argued that ARC was not even formed or legally established at the time the African Union Commission called for Expressions of Interests (EOI) on DotAfrica in May 2011, and that the ARC had made zero contribution to the proposal of the DotAfrica Initiative yet it was being given a quasi-official recognition to present its 'approach on DotAfrica'
AUC’s attempt to Reserve the .Africa Name
Even though the ARC effort was a quick failure, its proposers immediately teamed up with the AfTLD – which at that time was led by the South African Mr.VikaMpisane - to approach the AUC for support. The effort that led the AUC to take over this competing .Africa initiative was largely caused by what Dr.NiiQuaynor (who was the then Chair of AUC Task Force for .Africa) was asserting “I think its [sic] more responsible for the regional organization (AUC) to hold the string in public trust and have policy oversight, especially so with these likes of practices of DCA. This has been what the Africann community has helped to achieve.” In other words, Mr.Quaynor informed his readers what “they”—the African community, as represented on the AUC Task Force—had achieved to undermine DCA’s endorsement by the AUC in order to clear the way for giving the rights to .AFRICA to the AUC.
However, this was a stratagem that was used to merge a .Africa proposal that had been put forward by Nii Quaynor under “dotafrica.org” (his registered domain, to merge with the (the “Africa in One Space” umbrella) which is now the front page of the ICANN contracted ZACR registry and supported by AfriNIC and the Afr* organizations – including the ARC/AfTLD. DCA has run a “No” campaign on Mr.Quaynor to expose all of his associations. These associations were using the AU-DotAfrica Task Force as the platform to propose to the AUC to request for the .Africa name to be included in the List of Top-Level Reserved Names by ICANN as a special legislative protection to benefit the AUC; which would then enable the AUC to delegate .Africa outside the ICANN new gTLD Program to the structure they recommend This is essentially how the AUC came into the picture directly even though the organization had no prior intentions to apply for, or participate directly in .Africa proposal, as it has already issued an endorsement to DCA Trust. Therefore,the plan to get the .Africa new gTLD as a reserved name was formulated by the AU DotAfrica Task Force members who had hoped to use their connections at ICANN to win .Africa for themselves with the supposed backing of the AUC – the organization that was also expected to identify a structure and appoint that structure to run .africa after receiving special treatment from ICANN.Hence, during the ICANN-42 International Meeting in Dakar, Senegal in October 2011, a request was submitted by AUC to ICANN as part of an ‘African Agenda’ Ministerial Roundtable meeting to reserve the DotAfrica name and its equivalent in other languages such as DotAfrique and DotAfrikia to the AUC as special legislative protection, so to be managed and operated by “the structure” that is “selected and identified,by the African Union “
DCA Trust Opposition to the AUC Request to Reserve .Africa Name
DCA Trust therefore campaigned vigorously against the request that was submitted to ICANN as part of the ‘African Agenda’ by AUC to reserve the .Africa name and its equivalents in other languages such as DotAfrique and DotAfrikia – arguing that such a plan would not only violate the policy of the new gTLD Program as already specified in the approved version of the Guidebook, but would also go against the governance structure of the Internet. This effort by DCA Trust at Dakar successfully prevented the .Africa domain name from being reserved which kept .Africa available as an Internet resource that can be competitively applied for under the global new gTLD program of ICANN.
ICANN’s Response to AUC’s Request to Reserve .Africa Name
Following this objection by DCA Trust in Dakar, ICANN did not take any action on the AUC’s request to reserve .AFRICA. With the application period for new gTLDs scheduled to open in only a few months’ time, on 19th Dec 2011, DCA wrote to ICANN expressing its concern by requesting that ICANN respond to the AUC formally in writing and post its response publicly. . DCA said without a public declaration by ICANN that it would not reserve .AFRICA for the AUC, other potential applicants faced the risk that at any time ICANN would announce that it was giving the strings to the AUC. If that happened, every applicant other than the AUC would have wasted a considerable amount of time and resources preparing to apply for an unavailable string. Although ICANN neither responded to DCA’s letter nor the AUC’s request, DCA was confident that the AUC’s request to reserve a gTLD was improper, and most irregular, so DCA proceeded with preparing and submitting its application for .AFRICA. ICANN only responded to the letter on March 8, 2012, after the application for gTLDs opened and wrote to AUC that ICANN cannot approve the reserve name, nevertheless, in his communication, the ICANN Board Chairman Dr. Stephen Crocker advised the AUC to influence the DotAfrica delegation outcome using the Community Objection and or GAC Policy Advise procedures.
AUC becomes a member of ICANN GAC
On 8 March 2012, three months after ICANN suggested to the AUC that it use the GAC to object to DCA’s application for .AFRICA, the AUC became a voting member of the GAC.
DCA’s Opposition to AU RFP & Uniform’s appointment
In the press statement, DCA stated to the effect that DCA has received an ‘endorsement from the AU in 2009, for the administration of the (dot)AfricagTLD, the AUC’s action on the RFP is also in bad faith. DCA further challenged the AUC “to act immediately in the greater interest of global public transparency and accountability” and release the details of its (dot)Africa EOI process and the RFP and included a listed of items to be produced.
DCA Trust then run various campaigns and press reports to sensitize the general public that AUC cannot appoint a .Africa registry on behalf of Africa as that role belongs to ICANN. DCA also reaffirmed that the AU is simply one stakeholder in a multi-stakeholder process, and cannot single-handedly outsource, or contract with any organization or participate in the process of selecting a registry operator for a DotAfricagTLD that it does not own, nor is within its right to delegate. It also warned against AUC and Uniforum actions as wrongdoing against DotAfrica. DCA said the African Union cannot mainstream itself strategically within a particular proposal as a co-applicant and also play a role of a ‘self-endorsing’ entity in order to singularly control the fate of DotAfrica.
List of Countries Supporting the “AUC” Reserve Name
78% of African countries have endorsed the AUC bid for .africa, well above the ICANN requirement of 60% support needed, as reported by ZACR on their website.
However, after the application to ICANN was submitted with the above documents and when DCA Trust filed for an accountability hearing over why its application was not approved by ICANN, it was established through the DCA Trust vs. ICANN IRP that all the support letters that were collected and submitted to ICANN by the AUC/ZACR from the African countries were not in compliant with the New gTLD application requirement. The discovery process of the IRP revealed that all the support letters written to AUC by African Governments was for the ‘reserved Name” which AUC requested from ICANN in ICANN Dakar meeting, where their plans failed due to a strong opposition from DCA Trust arguing that the reserve name was non-compliance to ICANN’s rule book and anti-competitive and ICANN could not allow AUC to reserve the name for the AUC.
The AU RFP for .Africa
The failure of the reserve name plan at ICANN Dakar, caused the members of the AU DotAfrica Task Force to try to set up a consortium that would apply for .Africa, but this met with limited results. However, following the ICANN Dakar gathering, after several meetings between the African Union (AUC) and the DotAfrica Task Force, the AUC organized a Request for Proposals (RFP) process, which DCA Trust refused to participate in.
In November 2011, the AUC released an RFP for applicants who were interested in applying, administering and managing the DotAfrica domain name for the African continent, provided they meet certain criteria such as having the financial and technical stability to run the Registry Operations for the TLD and having connections to the Africa ccTLD operators. This requirement for a partnership with ccTLD operators enabled Mr.VikaMpisane of the AfTLD to send a recommendation to the AUC proposing that UniForum should be appointed to apply for .Africa on behalf of the African Internet Community. Therefore, even though it is often stated by AUC press releases. that local and international bidders participated in the AU-RFP process to select an operator for .Africa new gTLD, this was really not the case, since UniForum was simply appointed to be registry operator without any competition after DCA Trust elected not to participate in the AU-RFP process because of evident irregularities which DCA had mentioned and protested against, including that requirement for ccTLD is outside the realm of the ICANN RFP and not consistent with the requirement of the globally approved New gTLD program.
Bids were submitted on December 8, 2011, and by December 15, 2011, the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) formerly known as UniForum SA was named the successful bidder in this RFP process. UniForum SA then eventually became ZA Central Registry (ZACR). It must be noted that UniForum is the organization that runs the South African ccTLD, “CO.ZA”, however the directors and owners of UniForum are the same group of people that were behind the ARC initiative which had earlier failed.
DCA Trust’s Refusal to Participate in the AU RFP
DCA’s did not participate because of evident irregularities which DCA had mentioned and protested against on various grounds. Primarily, the AUC RFP made a “community Support” a requirement, which violated the ICANN Applicant Guide Book (AGB) twofold. One, the AUC RFP mandates that the applicants apply for a geographic name and apply on behalf of a community, which is inconsistent with the ICANN AGB. The .AFRICA gTLD is not a community TLD, it is a generic TLD, which means there is no requirement that the applicant have the support of a specific community. Two, to reinforce this extraneous requirement, the AU RFP required applicants to be partnered with African ccTLD operators, which is outside the realm of the ICANN RFP for gTLD applicants, and not consistent with the requirement of the globally approved New gTLD program. as there is no requirement in the AGB that an applicant to be partnered with one. Furthermore, the requirements and experience needed for operating a ccTLD registry is different from that for a gTLD. DCA asserted that the AUC was using the ccTLDs allied with certain African governments to garner political support for its independent plans for .AFRICA.
The RFP also asked bidders to provide extensive technical and financial information in their submissions. DCA wrote to the AUC in December 2011, explaining that it could not participate in a bidding process that would provide its potential competitor with the specific details of its bid strategy and other confidential information. DCA believed that this information could only be submitted to ICANN, as ICANN is the only entity with the mandate to receive bid submissions and evaluate applicants for new gTLDs. Additionally, DCA believed that the extremely short window for evaluating the bids and selecting the winning registry operator provided for in the RFP demonstrates that the outcome was predetermined. The RFP gave the evaluators only seven days (five business days) to review the proposals and notify the winner, which is simply not enough time for any meaningful evaluation, particularly considering that the RFP asked for much of the same information as required in the ICANN gTLD application, which is evaluated over a period of six months or more. Moreover, the people who were invited to join the AUC DotAfrica Task Force had numerous conflicts of interest that should have precluded them from being involved in the AUC’s process of choosing the potential registry operator.
Uniforum/ZACR application to ICANN as proxy for the AUC
Following the appointment of UniForum by the AUC, the “AfricaInOneSpace” was formed to handle the AUC led initiative which is based on governmental ownership and leadership. This is evidenced by the contract between the AUC and UniForum/ZACR, which not only specifies that the AUC would have all the rights to the .Africa registry technical databases and intellectual property but also gives the AUC the right to change the registry operator at any time; which essentially makes ZACR a proxy for the AUC, even though technically the AUC did not and cannot apply for .Africa. Such provisions in that agreement between the AUC and UniForum/ZACR are in direct violation of many important aspects of the ICANN new gTLD Program, since all registry technical data, including data escrow requirements, technically and legally belong to ICANN and not to the AUC. It is likely that ZACR agreed to these rather “extra-ordinary conditions” to enable the AUC accept to appoint the organization as a registry operator for .Africa.
The ZA Central Registry after having won the bid to run and manage the .africa TLD met with African representatives to establish a Steering Committee, which would have moral and ethical oversight over the .africa Top Level Domain. The Steering Committee consists of African Internet experts, Country Code managers, Registrars and others volunteering for a better Internet for Africa. In April 2012 ZA Central Registry submitted to ICANN its bid to become the Registry Operator for .africa.
ZA Central Registry established a Steering Committee to provide leadership and oversight for the application and launch processes for the .africa TLD, and provide an avenue for the greater African community to become involved. Members of the committee represent a broad range of countries and organizations within the African content, and participate on a voluntary basis. The Committee is the precursor to the planned dotAfrica Foundation, which will oversee developmental projects and initiatives relating to the Internet and Domain Name System (DNS) industries in Africa.
The members of the Steering Committee are:* Mohamed El Bashir, Chairperson, representing Sudan, AdielAkplogan, representing AfriNIC and Mauritius, Mohamed Tijani Ben Jemaa, representing AFRALO and Tunisia, Edmund Katiti, representing NEPAD and Uganda, Barrack Otieno, representing AfTLD and Kenya, Alice Munyua,representing Kenya, AliouneBadaraTraoré, representing AfTLD and Mali, Moses Bayingana, representing the African Union, Victor Ciza, representing Central National De L'Informatique SA, the ccTLD manager for .bi, and Burundi
DCA objection to ZACR Application
DCA Trust had read and understood the published parts of the application for .Africa that was submitted by UniForum ZA Central Registry and concluded that such provisions in that agreement between the AUC and UniForum/ZACR are in direct violation of many important aspects of the ICANN new gTLD Program, since all registry technical data, including data escrow requirements, technically and legally belong to ICANN and not to the AUC. It is likely that ZACR agreed to these rather “extra-ordinary conditions” to enable the AUC accept to appoint the organization as a registry operator for .Africa. Additionally, DCA wrote to ICANN that the UniForum application was not submitted on behalf of the African Community, and also wrote and posted several public comments against the UniForum application to draw attention to the fact that UniForum had not submitted a Community TLD application for .Africa. DCA also made other objection to ZACR application and submitted officially to ICANN evaluators. DCA then requested that ICANN disqualify ZACR immediately based on the merits of its application and its failure to follow the new gTLD AGB procedures. Not only did the application reveal this improper agreement with the AU to grant it these rights, but it also contemplated vesting legal or executive responsibility in an organization that did not have any formal role or executive responsibility at ZACR and delegating responsibility for overseeing .AFRICA to an entity not yet legally established. These comments, however, were ignored by ICANN.
AUC/ZACR objection to DCA Application
Soon after the AUC became a member of GAC, during the last quarter of 2012, the AUC and about 17 African countries coordinated and issued a GAC Early Warning notice on DCA ZACR also attempted to use the ICANN’s Independent Objector (IO) to object DCA on community grounds, which was unsuccessful. DCA fought back responding to the IO. The IO stated that it would not object to DCA application as the African Union Commission is already fully aware of the controversial issues and is better placed than the IO to file an objection, if it deems it appropriate thus the IO does not in principle intend to file an objection on the community ground. Then at the Beijing GAC meeting in April 2013 a GAC Objection Advice was orchestrated by the AUC (and some allied African country governments represented on the ICANN GAC) as a serious challenge that was meant to fail DCA Trust’s application for the .Africa new gTLD.
Other Objections of African Union to DCA
In April 24, 2014 the AUC also objected that Sophia Bekele deliver a KeyNote Speech at their AU premises in Addis Ababa, even though the conference was organized by the ITU Girl’s day annual event.
.Africa in official dispute with ICANN (DCA Trust vs ICANN IRP)
Even before ZACR signed the registry agreement with ICANN, DCA Trust refused to withdraw its application before accountability hearing is completed, as a challenge to the decision that ICANN Board adopted at the Beijing GAC advice and denial of any reconsideration on the treatment of DCA's application.. DCA Trust claimed that the ICANN Board decision was “unfair, discriminatory, and lacked appropriate due diligence and care” as well as “anti-competitive” to their application and organizational aspirations.
On October 2013, DCA Trust filed its claim for an Independent Review Process (IRP) against ICANN at the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR) in New York, the international arm of the American Arbitration Association (AAA), which provides institutional support for the ICANN IRP process. This filing declared the .Africa as officially 'disputed' At the same time, the international IRP panel unanimously ordered an injunction against ICANN from further processing ZACR’s application until the dispute is resolved between ICANN and DCA Trust.
On 14 August 2014 the Panel also ordered precedent setting ruling terming its Declaration and the future Declaration on the Merits of the case will be binding on ICANN (ICANN wanted this to be “advisory” and not “binding”). This included an order for document discovery and witness testimonies.
On July 9, 2015 following an expert determination of the IRP, in a landmark decision, the Independent Review Process (IRP), unanimously ruled that both the actions an inaction of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has violated its Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation. The IRP ordered that
148 Based on the foregoing, after having carefully reviewed the Parties’ written submissions, listened to the testimony of the three witness, listened to the oral submissions of the Parties in various telephone conference calls and at the in-person hearing of this IRP in Washington, D.C. on 22 and 23 May 2015, and finally after much deliberation, pursuant to Article IV, Section 3, paragraph 11 (c) of ICANN’s Bylaws, the Panel declares that both the actions and inactions of the Board with respect to the application of DCA Trust relating to the .AFRICA gTLD were inconsistent with the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of ICANN.
149 Furthermore, pursuant to Article IV, Section 3, paragraph 11 (d) of ICANN’s Bylaws, the Panel recommends that ICANN continue to refrain from delegating the .AFRICA gTLD and permit DCA Trust’s application to proceed through the remainder of the new gTLD application process.
150 The Panel declares DCA Trust to be the prevailing party in this IRP and further declares that ICANN is to bear, pursuant to Article IV, Section 3, paragraph 18 of the Bylaws, Article 11 of Supplementary Procedures and Article 31 of the ICDR Rules, the totality of the costs of this IRP and the totality of the costs of the IRP Provider.
On 16 July 2015 ICANN's board of directors convened a special meeting to quickly address the independent review panel's declaration that held in favor of DotConnectAfrica Trust regarding .AFRICA top-level domain application. During the meeting, the Board resolved to: Continue to refrain from delegating the .AFRICA gTLD, Permit DCA's application to proceed through the remainder of the new gTLD application process and Reimburse DCA for certain costs related to the independent review process.
An IRP is an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) juridical mechanism that empowers an Independent Panel of Jurists, acting as a third-party, to engage in a detailed, procedure-based accountability review process. The standard of adjudication, legal and policy review required in an IRP is very high, since the complainant, who is materially affected by the ICANN Board action or decision, has to prove that certain actions that have been taken by ICANN have violated the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation of the organization. In deciding the IRP, the Panel has to compare the contested actions (or inactions) of the ICANN Board against the existing stipulations laid down in the Bylaws or Articles of Incorporation of ICANN by focusing on a pre-defined standard of review; and to rule whether such actions or inactions were wrongful and had indeed violated the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation.
A New Disagreement with DCA and ICANN
As of July 9, 2015, post the DCA vs ICANN IRP Declaration, it was read immediately by the general public that ICANN and DCA Trust were into a new disagreement. This is because in their respective public communication, ICANN after holding an emergency meeting on .africa IRP declaration made a resolution asserting that ICANN will continue to refrain from delegating the .AFRICA gTLD, Permit DCA's application to proceed through the remainder of the new gTLD application process and Reimburse DCA for certain costs related to the independent review process.
DCA on the other hand made a public statement on the results of the IRP Declaration, and stated it expects ICANN to have DCA proceed to delegation for .africa as well as remove ZACR from the .africa New gTLD program DCA also wrote a lengthy letter to ICANN in response to the ICANN .africa ICANN Board resolution informing them of further wrongdoings that ICANN have mismanaged the post IRP matters, by ICANN not being independent post-IRP process, as it solicited direct comments from DCA’s competition ZACR and AUC to be acted upon on matters of .africa. As the prevailing party in the IRP, DCA Trust also insisted that DCA’s reading of the deeper implications and ramifications of this IRP outcome is that “ICANN could not have delegated or signed a legitimate contract with ZACR (a co-applicant with AUC) for the .Africa new gTLD since ICANN executed the contract when the IRP was already in progress – and as such, ICANN could not have lawfully delegated a name string that was under legal disputation at the time the contract agreement was signed”. Additionally, ICANN was not in correct standing with the law to the extent that it was committing other violations and irregularities when it was signing a contract that can also be construed as irregular.
DCA also criticized the blog made by ICANN's internal Counsel confirming to that fact that ZACR's contract award is not impacted by the current IRP outcome. DCA responded a point by point response to his assertion primarily informing that the Counsel that his statement regarding ZACR's contract is wrong, that "No bidder for any Invitation for Bids (IFB) process would agree to participate in an open/competitive bid (or tender) opportunity which the goods or services that are being tendered have already been awarded and contracted out to a particular supplier. Even as a lawyer, something should tell Mr. Jeffrey that this situation is not right and needs to be corrected immediately."
Following this new disagreement, DCA Trust opted to go to the court in January 20, 2016, filed a case at the United States District Court of California - Western Division.
DCA wins Ex Parte Application for Temporary Restraining Order
In January 20, 2016 took ICANN to Court regarding the way ICANN processed the IRP ruling that was rendered in July 9, 2015 declaring DCA Trust the prevailing party. This DCA Trust then submitted its first Amended Notice on 26 February 2016.
On March 5, 2016, the United States District Court, Central District Of California - Western Division ruling granted an Interim Relief for DotConnectAfrica in a decision [PDF Case No: CV 16-00862 RGK (JCx)] that ICANN should hold off from delegating the .AFRICA top-level domain (TLD) for ZA Central Registry (ZACR).
The Court ruled: (March 4, 2016)
(IN CHAMBERS) Plaintiff's Ex Parte Application for TRO (DE ) by Judge R. Gary Klausner: The Court grants Plaintiff's Ex Parte Application for TRO. Defendant is enjoined from issuing the .Africa gTLD until the Court decides Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction, scheduled for hearing on April 4, 2016.
Upon review of the parties' arguments, the Court finds serious questions going to the merits. Plaintiff has demonstrated that once the gTLD is issued, it will be unable to obtain those rights elsewhere. Moreover, the injury it will suffer cannot be compensated through monetary damages. In opposition, Defendant states in conclusory fashion only that the African governments and the ICANN community will suffer prejudice if the delegation of the gTLD is delayed.
This will allow the Court time to consider arguments from DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA Trust) and ICANN regarding the .AFRICA TLD. DCA Trust is represented in the case by Brown, Neri, Smith & Khan LLP.
DCA wins Preliminary Injunction, April 12, 2016
On April 12, 2016, the same court also granted a Preliminary Injunction for DotConnectAfrica, the decision for case no. 16-CV-00862 RGK (JCx) [PDF] The ruling detailed among other things that The balance of equities tips in favor of granting the preliminary injunction. Without preliminary injunction, DCA will lose the opportunity to obtain rights to .Africa because ICANN will likely delegate the rights to ZACR prior to the conclusion of this action, and these rights can be delegated only once.
The ruling touched on the AUC relationship with ICANN and stated that public interest favors granting preliminary injunction, that The AUC's relationship with ZACR, and its interest in preventing the delay of issuing rights to .Africa creates a conflict of interest. Therefore, on this point, the Court accords little weight to the Yedaly Declaration. On balance, the Court finds it more prejudicial to the African community, and the international community in general, if the delegation of .Africa is made prior to a determination on the fairness of the process by which it was delegated.
DCA Trust vs ICANN Court Case Remanded to State Court
The DCA Trust vs ICANN Court Case was remanded back to state court where it was first filed after ICANN and ZACR argued that the Federal Circuit had no jurisdiction over the case.
ICANN and ZACR had appealed that the state courts not hold the decisions the federal court. DCA Trust filed for a Preliminary Injunction to sustain the ruling. The the Los Angeles Superior Court presiding Judge Howard L. Halm had on December 22, 2016, issued a written tentative ruling indicating he would grant the motion for a preliminary injunction filed by DCA Trust which was later denied on technicalities
The Plaintiff DotConnectAfrica Trust’s (“DCA”) subsequently filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) on January 4, 2017 order enjoining Defendant ICANN from issuing the .Africa generic top level domain (“gTLD”) until the Court sets an Order to Show Cause as to why a Preliminary Injunction should not issue. The Court did not rule on the ex parte application for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) but would hear new arguments advanced by DCA Trust as grounds for the motion for preliminary injunction in February 2017.