Africa may soon get its own top-level Internet domain

Africa.africaAn initiative to create a new generic top-level domain (gTLD) for Africa is gaining ground after the idea was raised for discussion at a meeting of African communications ministers in Johannesburg this week.

The ministerial conference, held under the auspices of the African Union (AU), was convened to discuss the upcoming AU heads of state and government summit, the exclusive focus of which will be information and communications technology on the continent. The summit will be held in 2010.

Communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda says this week’s meeting didn’t go into detail about how the .africa gTLD will be implemented and managed, but industry experts say it’s important that the issue was raised for discussion at the meeting and could be dealt with at next year’s summit.

It would be logical Pan-African organisations such as the AU and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development to use the .africa gTLD. Companies with operations across the continent, such as SABMiller, MTN and Vodacom, are also likely to snap up Web addresses that end in .africa.

Vika Mpisane, general manager of the .za Domain Name Authority, says the idea of a .africa gTLD has been on the cards for a couple of years and follows the introduction of other continental domains, namely .eu and .asia. “A .africa generic TLD could do very well,” he says.

However, it is understood that there are two competing bids to establish the .africa gTLD. One is from the US, and the other, which seems more likely to succeed, consists of a loose-knit grouping of African Internet bodies and governmental organisations.

Ultimately, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the US-based not-for-profit entity that manages the Internet domain name system, must decide whether a .africa gTLD will be created and who should manage it.

Support of the AU is seen as critical in swaying Icann’s decision.  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral

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