Get ready people, you might be able to snatch a .africa domain name by 2013, as the ICANN is currently accepting applications for new generic top level domains and many organizations are going to put in applications for the .africa gTLD according to this CNN article. DotConnectAfrica, the African Top Level Domains Association, the African Registry Consortium and even the African Union Commission are all considering putting in the $185,000 required to apply for operating the “.africa” domain, with the Commission also vying for the French and Arabic alternatives “.afrique” and “.afriqia”. The reasons put forward by Sophia Bekele, director of DotConnectAfrica makes sense based on their research:
- 80% of African domain name registrants have opted for “.com” or “.org” suffixes instead of country code top level domains (ccTLDslike .sn, .co.za etc…) because they were priced competitively, reliable to register and had wide recognition.
- ccTLDs are “usually owned by governments, and governments are typically not very good at marketing”.
- Proceeds from African domain registrations would remain on the continent, rather than flowing offshore.
The African Union Commission goals are more culturally motivated and aim to “to ensure the identity of Africa, the image, the culture are well-maintained” according to Moctar Yedaly, head of information society for the commission. The support is there, especially from the young developer community, as well as corporations as a way to unifying branding. DotConnectAfrica plans to “offer domains at prices competitive to “.com” registrations — $5 for students, or between $9 to $19 for small- to medium-enterprises.”.
There are of courses folks a little more enthusiatic about the prospect, and the reservations against .africa come from governments who are worried would jeopardize existing ccTLDs which Bekele assures, won’t happen due to the current state of affairs. From the private sector, some are more skeptical of mass adoption of the new domain name because new gTLDs like .africa go “against the grain of current consumer trends”, which is search engine and social media driven web navigation according to Ray Valdes, vice-president of web services for tech consultancy Gartner, who recommends avoiding the hefty fee and spurs companies in creating faster and more search engine friendly websites as well as increasing their social media presence.
Personally, i like the idea of a .africa domain name, I think it is critical in establishing, just from a mental point of view the broad vision that is needed by Africans to create an truly African marketplace. Having ccTLDs for a website makes it somewhat limited to me, seeing a ccTLD in a URL for me diminishes the value I think i can derive from the site, especially if it is from a country I am not familiar with. I don’t think I am alone in that behavior and having a .africa domain name gets over that initial hurdle. It would be up to Africans to give .africa the value of a .com or a .net but the new generation i feel is up to this challenge. I’ll definitely buy one as soon as it is available, mark my words.