For those of you who have been following the African gTLD journey, must really feel for Africa and indeed ICANN especially at this time. The gTLD is at the center of a bitter war between two applicants who both claim a stake in it and while the real stake is yet to be achieved given that the current occurrences may well be playing into an early sunset for a domain that has not even been evaluated.
The DotAfrica gTLD was probably one of the most attractive gTLD, when it started out as the most favored and meaningful gTLD, and would have been a win for ICANN who would have facilitated its delegation for Africa, a continent that though mostly still in its infancy can easily be rated as the most promising Continent of the millennium given that many organizations are lining up to invest billions of dollars in anticipatory windfall.
Katim S. Touray on his blog on CircleID 27th Novermber 2012 aptly puts the .africa circus well as “Africa versus Africa” . 21st November 2012 ICANN published the GAC early warning where a total of 242 warnings were issued on 163 strings. Amazingly Africa who had the lowest number of applied for gTLD’s numbering to 17 also accounted for 30 warnings and in an almost near coincidence had 17 warnings on the prime .africa application from DotConnectAfrica.
Recently at the UN Internet governance forum, an African grouping made of mostly the ccTLD cadres also sought an opportunity to discuss the African Agenda. While the delegates agreed that it was good for competition that ICANN corrected DCA’s applications from the .dotafrica, it was also seen as a time to lobby for mass objection of the DCA’s application based on non-governmental support. 17 objections were drawn from Africa.
The .Africa journey is mostly painted by accusations and counter accusations that mostly border on corruption and under handing on the part of the nemesis Uniforum. DotConnectAfrica has continuously highlighted corruption by the officials who account for most of the No-Campaigns . Apart from denying its distracters from positions at ICANN, through these no campaigns DCA also exposed the under handed approach in appointing the entity that would apply for the .africa on behalf of the continent. While the RFP which allegedly froth with conflict of interest, irregularity and favoritism that was put forward by the AUC required a consortium of organizations, DotConnectAfrica armed with its previously granted endorsement by the AU chose to go at it alone eventually applying for the gTLD.
Uniforum and its handlers muscled itself to AU further obtaining a quick fix appointment with which it has used to apply for the new gTLD albeit amidst suspicion on who is behind its consortium of ARC and AFTLD and how it intends to transparently operate the gTLD. Uniforum also has been faulted on its application’s failure to contain the community even though it had promised a community application.
ICANN’s reaction to COI is more worrying
The worrying trend though is at the pace with which ICANN the governing body managing the worlds root zone is handling the matters. Though the history of .africa would have put forward ICANN’s position in reaching out to Africa transparently before this mix-up, its clear now that ICANN is doing more harm than good by involving itself too much with individuals that come from the entities applying for the .africa.
Recent developments include Fadi’s appointment to ICANN as CEO, Introduction of the ICANN Africa strategy including the appointment of Fadi’s right hand Man, a veteran government executive Tarek Kamel and yesterdays appointment of Pierre Dandjinou who has openly campaigned against DotConnectAfrica’s bid for .africa and even lost an ALAC Board seat in 2010 due to history of COI further complicates the matters in Africa’s position.
ICANN is claiming to reach out to Africa but has decided to limit its choice of such candidates to a thin pool of individuals largely drawn from one constituency. The result of this will be a blatant reaction from the community on exclusion, not that being appointed would matter but, the mere presence of Dandjinou as an ICANN VP for Africa puts ICANN at cross roads and in sheer violation of trust and fairness. There will be lack of transparency as well conflict of interest. ICANN is an organization that is sensitive to any action that would scar its credibility but its recent actions especially in getting Pierre as a VP grossly damages this protected credibility.
How Africa fairs in this round of new gTLD’s will really determine how mature Africa is getting and will further translate to how more applications would fair in the subsequent rounds but what must happen is that ICANN must hence forth cease to be in the same bed with the applicants, ICANN must remain as a referee and restrict itself to competitive processes of seeking individuals to fill up such positions. This Actions seems to have been missed as DCA even endeavored to advice ICANN on how to seek individuals who would replace Ms. Ann Rachel Inne.