ICANN Announces African Expansion, But Local Registrars Say More Needs To Be Done

ICANN logoICANN is moving to expand its presence in Africa, announcing plans to move ahead immediately with six new ICANN representatives on the African continent and a push to increase five-fold to 25 the number of registrars on the continent in two years.

But the latter move is facing resistance by existing registrars, who in part naturally want to protect their own businesses but also see a number of other issues that are important to increasing domain name registrations. But as Africa expands economically and more people go online, the number of registered domain names in Africa will also increase.

“It’s a good move,” Nii Quaynor, chair of the board of trustees of the Internet Society (ISOC) Ghana Chapter, a nonprofit organisation that promotes Internet use and access, told IDG in an email Tuesday commenting on ICANN’s initiative. “ICANN is investing in proving better service and presence in the region where it’s not been active.”

However, ICANN’s focus on the increase of accredited registrars is not the only way to go, he said. “I’ll tell you exactly what I told Mr. Chehadé regarding increasing the number of ICANN Accredited Registrars in Africa: Domain names are not drugs, it’s not by increasing the number of dealers that we’ll have more domain names in the region,” Hamza Aboulfeth, CEO of the Moroccan ICANNA accredited registrar Genious Communications, again according to IDG.

Cost is another issue that hampers the domain-name business. Moroccan hosting companies for example often choose to host outside of the country due to the high costs of bandwidth in the country, Aboulfeth told IDG. “We are talking about more than $200 per Mbit and $2 per Mbit in Canada, for instance,” he said.

“This way, even if we host local websites they are still considered an outside content website. So we need to be able to use our local infrastructure for our hosting needs,” Aboulfeth said, adding that this is something local ISPs need to deal with.

Announcing the decision though Chehadé was upbeat.

“ICANN used to say if you want to participate in Internet governance come to ICANN,” said Chehadé. “We’ve changed that, now ICANN is coming to the stakeholders. We’re not waiting for you to come. We’re coming to you.”

The comments from Chehadé and the announcement came during the Africa Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The two-day meeting ended Friday after drawing Internet leaders from across the continent.

“We will have ICANN staff, at least one, in each of the 6 regions of Africa. North, South, East, West, Central and the Indian Ocean,” said Chehadé. “I want African on-ramps into the ICANN structures. I will give you the on-ramps, but you need to climb them.”

The ICANN leader also said he would like to see a dramatic increase in the number of accredited Domain Name Registrars on the African continent. Currently there are only five accredited Registrars in Africa among more than one thousand worldwide, but Chehadé said he wants to see that number increase five-fold in less than two years.

“This is about us moving the needle forward. Africa will not wait,” said Chehadé.

The two-day event in Addis Ababa was attended by some two hundred people, including Ministers and other government representatives, leaders from the African business community, civil society and from ICANN structures in Africa; AFTLD and AFRALO.

The multi-stakeholder IG event was co-organized by the African Union, ISOC-Africa, AFRINIC and the African IGF. It was preceded by a two-day workshop about the development of the DNS Industry in Africa.

During the event the implementation of an African Strategy for better engagement in Africa was discussed in detail. This strategy was prepared by representatives from the African community last summer and announced during the ICANN meeting in Toronto in October. Fadi Chehadé reiterated ICANN’s commitment to help implement the three-year strategy in coordination with our global and regional partners in Africa.