Africa has 17 applications, 4 being geographic gTLDS, including ” .africa” which according the guidebook:
“An application for a string listed as a UNESCO regions or appearing on the “Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings”
In the case of an application for a string appearing on either of the lists above, documentation of support will be required from at least 60% of the respective national governments in the region, and there may be no more than one written statement of objection to the application from relevant governments in the region and/or public authorities associated with the continent or the region.
“Where the 60% rule is applied, and there are common regions on both lists, the regional composition contained in the “Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings” takes precedence.”
This is the support that applicants for .africa have been fighting for, however as it appears; one applicant was given an endorsement that was retracted a year later, after what was called an opaque lobbying that later granted Uniforum an ‘outright’ support by Africa Union.
What then followed was an intense effort to get massive support from ministers in an idea that was intended to push for a reservation of several names that were classified as sovereign to the Africa Union. This was effected by requesting several countries to quickly send letters in support for this cause, which may have been too rapid for the government officials to read through.
Some of the letters written covered statements like these recovered from copies available in the public domain, a paragraph from Namibia,
“..urged the AU to proceed in earnest to have the .africa registry established to avoid a potential hijack of regional names on .africa for private use.”, adding that “We furthermore express that the regional geographic TLD strings ‘.africa, .afrique and .africa’ be set aside by ICANN for the regions use the auspices to the AU and that the new gTLD bid process should not result n the string(s) being inadvertently assigned without the AUC determination”
.And from Kenya,
The Government of Kenya, having supported the Heads of State Declaration and the Ministerial recommendations, applauds the AU initiative and urges the AU to proceed in earnest to have the dot Africa registry established. Kenya, furthermore expresses that the regional geographic TLD strings Dot Africa, Dot Afrique and Dot Afrika be set aside by ICANN for the regions’ use under the auspices of the African Union and that the new gTLD bid process should not result in the string(s) being inadvertently assigned without the African Union Commission (AUC) determination.
The similarity in the script betrayed a trend and a request to potentially scare the governments that these names would be misused, should it fall under the handling of anyone other than AUC.
Therefore, it appears that the Governments had provided the letters to the AUC understanding that they are in support of the call for reservation of .africa related names and not in Support of Uniforum’s application. These letters gathered from the “reserve name” campaign for the AUC have been translated as support and endorsement letters by Uniforum.
Understanding this issue, DCA in its response to ICANN in December 5th 2012,to the Early Warning Notice it received by governments to its application a formal complaint to waive the endorsement requirements saying the following:
“We believe that the endorsement issue should no longer be considered as relevant in the evaluation of the .Africa gTLD as a geographic string. We therefore urge the ICANN Board to waive this requirement because of the confusing role that was played by African Union. The organization has created huge problems of legitimacy regarding the endorsement issue by acting both as ‘endorser’ and ‘co-applicant’ for .Africa. It is our view that the final decision by ICANN regarding the delegation of the .Africa string should now only be based on the evaluated technical, operational and financial criteria and not on the issue of endorsement, which has been entirely ‘politicized’
After the above Early Warning response to ICANN, it appears the DCA again is making its point of the issue again in a rejoinder to IT Web South Africa titled New Local Domains see Breakthrough saying “Pride goeth before a fall’: UniForum does not have one single endorsement from any African country government
“For months, UniForum ZA Central Registry has been insisting on its specious government support, but as we have shown to the entire world, UniForum does not have one single endorsement from any African country government. We have demonstrated, using the example of Namibia, that most of the African country governments have only written letters in support of the AU Position on DotAfrica – a position that was conveyed in Dakar Senegal in October 2011 by requesting ICANN to reserve the .Africa names (including .Afrique and .Afrikia) for delegation by the African Union Commission under a separate process outside the new gTLD program.
Such letters that were purportedly written by African countries who supported the AUC’s request for special treatment have been claimed by UniForum as its endorsement letters for .Africa. Since we made this fine distinction to show that African countries acting to provide support for an AU position that was never accepted by ICANN does not translate into automatic African country government endorsement for UniForum as an applicant for the .Africa new gTLD. Everyone has seen that UniForum’s continuing claims to African country government support for its application are wildly preposterous, rather hollow and profoundly unsustainable.”
This is true and it is a matter that ICANN evaluators need not brush aside but actually go ahead and probe the understanding by the said government offices of an existing support. This is the only process that can actually sanitize the process.
One of the bloggers, Kevin Murphy of Domainincite who has been writing on the .africa issues, however a known biased against DCA has also owned up that he is not aware that real endorsements exists apart from that he has just been told “Uniforum executives told me recently that the company has this 60% support. It also has the explicit, exclusive, unambiguous support of the African Union Commission.” But later says “Uniforum also claims to have individual support from the required 60% of nations, though I have not seen documentary evidence of this.”
After all, Murphy has spent an enormous amount of his time bashing and mocking DotConnectAfrica for participating in the new gTLD without any government support letters, which Murphy has also neither seen nor evidences, but only told by its competition it appears.
The real test will come when evidential support is laid on the table and a clear understanding of the letters by the endorsers confirmed, for now it means Africa will be oscillating in unfounded statements that are only beneficial in inflating an already bloated ego.