At the 46th ICANN meeting the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) was awarded the right to operate the .africa registry after it signed and MoU with AfTLD, Africa’s Top Level Domain Organization. ZACR has since initiated an awareness programme for Africa’s best known brands. The .africa Pioneer Programme seeks support for Africa’s new space on the web from a set of African early adopters. Octavia Kumalo, PR & Marketing head For the dotAfrica project, says, “We’re encouraging African movers and shakers in the arts, commerce, government and other sectors to sign up for the .africa Pioneer Programme which will entitle them to certain rights and rewards relating to the proposed .africa gTLD.”
.africa domain names for participants in the Pioneer Programme will be put on a Reserve Name List giving them the first rights once .africa domains are made available later this year. “As with everything, certain rights bring certain responsibilities. The .africa Pioneer will be required to actively use the .africa domain name and they will also be required to make use of the “I support .africa logo” across their different marketing platforms,” explained Ms Kumalo.
The new top level domain has been endorsed by the African Union (AU) and it already enjoys widespread support from African governments, the business sector, civil society and the technical community. “The ZACR bid for .africa is easily one of the leading examples of pan-African cooperation ever witnessed,” said Ms Kumalo. ICANN is still making assessments on the gTLD, a further evaluation milestone is set to be outlined on 15 May 2013. Delegation of new gTLDs is planned for the Q3, this year. Thereafter, the .africa TLD will be available for launch and registration.
The .africa TLD will be launched in phases, the Sunrise and Landrush phases. Sunrise phase will see priority given to trademark and brand names. The Landrush phase will come in next, where open delegation will commence. Participants in the ZACR Pioneer Programme, mainly Trademark holders, will need to register their trademarks with the Trademark Clearing House or through the Mark Validation System (MVS). This is to ensure that the rightful intellectual property holders purchase their preferred .africa domains from Registry Operators.