A long-standing project to establish a continental top-level domain (TLD) for Africa was expected to culminate in the launch of .africa by the end of this year.
The impending launch of the ‘created for Africans by Africans’ domain initiative marked the continent’s strides in growth and development, said Werksmans Attorneys director and intellectual property practice member Donvay Wegierski.
The new TLD would make it possible for businesses and other organisations to register domain names ending in .africa for the first time, with many existing and new companies across the continent taking up the opportunity to “show to the world where they are from”.
“.africa is an exciting prospect for businesses and individuals affiliated with Africa to identify themselves to a global audience,” she added.
The implementation of .africa was expected to add value to the Internet namespace as a recognisable phrase focused on the African identity and capturing the essence of the African community, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) said in a briefing note.
“It is expected that African institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises will greatly benefit from .africa, as they thrive beyond their local markets to invade the regional and continental marketplace,” the Icann said, emphasising the potential of the Internet as a platform for the economic growth of Africa.
Efforts were being made to improve Africa’s low percentage of Internet users, compared with other continents, leading to better prospects for Africa’s economic, social and political future.
“Internet access is particularly important in emerging economies as it helps bridge divides such as language, culture, religion and education across countries and continents,” she said.
South Africa’s .za domain-name central registry operator, UniForum, trading as ZA Central Registry, which was appointed to establish and operate the domain on behalf of Africa, would launch the TLD in two phases.
The sunrise phase would allow TradeMark Clearinghouse-validated trademark owners to register .africa domains incorporating their trademarks for a certain period of time.
This would be followed by the landrush phase, wherein domains would be registered on a first-come-first-serve basis.
According to the official .africa website, Uniforum was currently reviewing policies and procedures governing the TLD under the administration of the ZA Central Registry.
These included the regulation of the reserved names list, including important, offensive and sensitive names; the priority rights and sunrise mechanisms regulating the protection of proprietary and trademark rights within the TLD; and premium names and landrush mechanisms that regulate and establish procedures and guidelines for members of the public to obtain premium names or options, and apply for domain names during the landrush period.
UniForum said an .africa domain name would be charged at $18 a year.
The firm was also driving the applications for .joburg, .durban, and .capetown domains, under the .za banner, in light of increasing competition between international cities to brand themselves.