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Delays hit .africa sunrise launch phase

Delays hit .africa sunrise launch phase.

The planned sunrise launch of the .africa internet domain name has been postponed by up to two months, resulting in its general availability being pushed forward to late 2014.

South Africa’s ZA Central Registry (ZACR) says it has received an invitation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to “commence contracting” the generic top-level domain (gTLD) dotAfrica.

Last year; though, ZACR said it expected the commencement of the .africa ‘sunrise’ phase in March 2013.

But two factors have delayed this phase to April or even May after which the general availability of the domain is expected to commence 90 days thereafter, according to the ZACR in a statement emailed to ITWeb Africa.

Firstly, the ZACR says complying with foreign exchange controls in South Africa to facilitate the provisioning of a ‘continuing operating instrument’ (COI), according to ICANN criteria, has held up the process.

However, ZACR says “the cooperation of our bankers and the South African Reserve Bank (on) this issue has subsequently been resolved to ICANN's satisfaction.”

Secondly, because the ZACR has changed its name from UniForum SA, this alteration has initiated a contract change request: a process that is under review by ICANN.

“Other than the mandatory 30 day inspection period, we do not anticipate that this will lead to any additional delays in the contracting process,” says ZACR.

Nevertheless, ZACR goes on to say that it is confident it will execute the registry agreement (RA) during the course of March 2014.

“All things being equal we anticipate that we will be able to commence our sunrise process during the course of April - May,” says the ZACR.

The ZACR further says that upon receiving the final go-ahead from ICANN, it plans to commence the dotAfrica launch process by running both ‘sunrise’ and ‘landrush’ applications in parallel for a period of 90 days.

Following the conclusion of the launch period, ZACR then expects to start allocating domain names based on a ‘pre-determined priority ranking system.’

The result of this is that contested applications are to be resolved by means of an auction process.

Meanwhile, a priority ranking system is also expected to allocate domain name applications -- submitted during the 90 day application window -- in order of highest ranking to lowest ranking, says ZACR.

ZACR says this means that domain name applications based on trademarks registered in Africa are to receive the highest priority ranking, followed by trademarks registered in other jurisdictions.

“Applications that are not based on any validated priority right, such as generic landrush applications, will receive the lowest priority ranking,” says the ZACR.

Only then -- following the allocation or rejection of all applications filed during the 90 day application window -- does ZACR expect to commence with the general availability (GA) phase based on a ‘first come first served basis.’

The GA phase is expected to be based on “no other eligibility criteria, such as local presence requirements,” says the ZACR.

In the meantime, the ZACR, in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC), is in the process of establishing a list of government reserved names (RNL).

ITWeb Africa can also confirm that ZACR has hired South African marketing company World Wide Creative to put together a launch campaign for the domain.

And in the background, the previous second bidder for dotAfrica, Kenya’s DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA Trust), says it has not withdrawn its .africa gTLD application.

The AUC and a number of African governments raised objections to the DCA’s bid for dotAfrica, despite the DCA having controversially claimed that it had previously received support from the likes of the AUC.

After failing to pass ICANN’s initial evaluation phase, the DCA then asked the ICANN board to reconsider the evaluation phase decision, but ICANN last year rejected this appeal.

But earlier this month, DCA Trust announced it is looking to an independent body to review ICANN’s decision.

“On Jan. 10, 2014, DCA Trust submitted an Amended Notice of Independent Review Process (‘IRP’) to the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR),” says the DCA on its website.

“DCA Trust sent its Notice of IRP in October 2013. The IRP is a proceeding provided for in Article IV, Section 3 of the ICANN Bylaws, by which any person materially affected by a decision or action of the ICANN Board may request that the action be reviewed by an independent third party for consistency with the ICANN Bylaws and/or Articles of Incorporation,” adds the DCA.

Other global gTLDs such as .bike and .ventures have in the meantime gone live this week with more names expected to come online in the coming months.

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