Application Comment Details

DotConnectAfrica Trust
ZA Central Registry NPC trading as Registry.Africa
Legal Rights Objection Ground
AU Cannot appoint Registry Operator
4 September 2012 at 15:01:58 UTC

The African Union’s role in selecting a registry operator for .AFRICA directly usurps the role of ICANN, and this is directly against the objectives of the new gTLD Program and the UniForum application must be penalized accordingly by the ICANN Evaluation.

We may recall that the AU had requested the ICANN Board to include the .Africa, .Afrique, .Afrikia (and .Africa in Arabic script), name string and its representation in any other language within the Reserved Names List in order to enjoy the level of special legislative protection, to be managed and operated by the structure that is selected and identified by the African Union”; an extraordinary request that was refused by the ICANN Board because it was contrary to the stipulations of the new gTLD Applicant’s Guidebook.

In our estimation, the official response to the AU request by ICANN dated 8 March 2012 and signed by Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, Chairman of the ICANN Board, implied that the .AFRICA namespace as an Internet gTLD resource did not belong rightfully to the AU. In spite of this, the AU Commission had gone ahead to appoint UniForum ZA Central Registry as the Registry Operator for the DotAfrica (.AFRICA) gTLD.

We believe that this action of appointing a registry operator for DotAfrica (.AFRICA) gTLD by the AU is a major infraction. Nearly five (5) months ago, DCA had commented in an open press briefing titled ‘UniForum S.A. and African Union Should beware of any Irregularities over DotAfrica’ that “If it is generally accepted that the DotAfrica gTLD does not belong to the African Union (AU) but to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), how could the AU legitimately select a registry operator for a gTLD that it does not own?” DCA Trust now expects that this question needs to be urgently answered both by ICANN leaders and by the ICANN Evaluation in order that the eventual fate of .AFRICA gTLD can be transparently and rightfully determined in the global public interest.

According to the Applicant’s Guidebook only ICANN has the right under the new gTLD program to approve a registry operator for any applied-for gTLD based on the technical, operational and financial criteria spelt out in the new gTLD program Guidelines. The AU Commission has no authority in this regard, and whatever they have done in appointing a registry operator for .AFRICA is illegitimate since it usurps ICANN’s legitimate authority under the new gTLD Registry Agreement. As per Article 1 (Delegation and Operation of Top-Level Domain: Representations and Warranties) only ICANN can designate a ‘Registry Operator’ for any TLD.

We believe such an appointment of a registry operator for .AFRICA by the AU contravenes all the stipulations of the new gTLD Registry Agreement since the AU as a third-party has no role nor responsibility to determine or approve a registry operator under a separate process that has not taken into consideration ICANN’s approved and mandatory criteria for technical, operational and financial evaluation of new gTLD applications.