Dispute over .africa domain
IP address registry AfriNIC has had to postpone its planned November meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa due to disagreement over the future location of a .africa address zone. According to AfriNIC, the hosts, the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation, have cancelled the ninth meeting of the African address registry at short notice. The organisation has thus found itself forced to divert to Mauritius. The reason for the Ethiopian cancellation appears to be wrangling over the operation of the planned .africa top-level domain (TLD).
According to AfriNIC and Ethiopian press reports, the meeting was cancelled by the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport and Communication. The Ministry was apparently persuaded by warnings from the Ethiopian telecommunications industry that AfriNIC is hoping to thwart plans to host .africa from Addis Ababa. Ethiopian supporters of the .africa domain claim that AfriNIC wants to shift administration of the African domain to Mauritius or South Africa.
AfriNIC CEO Adiel Akplogan stated that the organisation was concerned with IP addresses, not domains, "Let me make quite clear that .africa and the domain business is not part of AfriNIC’s activities." He also noted that his organisation welcomes the initiative for an African address zone and would support any proposal aiming towards open and transparent operation. However, AfriNIC would not itself get involved in domain activities.
Akplogan has, however, been involved in a .africa project in a consultancy role, as one AfriNIC employee told heise online, noting that this did not represent a break with AfriNIC's fundamental position of neutrality. At the same time, AfriNIC has emerged, probably without actually itself taking any action, as a possible supporter of a different .africa project. It's impossible to say just how many different .africa initiatives there are. At the ICANN meeting in Paris, Ethiopian businesswoman Sophia Bekelele spoke of efforts to bring the various initiatives together.
One model for this could be the agreement among Asian countries on the .asia domain. Governments were persuaded not to object to the application, which originated in Hong Kong. Should conflict over .africa arise, ICANN's recently published [ticker:uk_117963 rules for dispute resolution] may be of some help.