June 19, 2014, 4:26 PM — The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has expressed frustration with the Independent Review Panel for the new generic Top Level Domains, after African Union Commission complaints of delays in approving the .africa TLD and marginalization the region's concerns.
Earlier this month, the African Union wrote a letter to ICANN president Fadi Chehade, asking why the .africa TLD had not been given a go-ahead to commence operations despite complying with ICANN requirements and signing a contract with the organization this year. The IRP process was put in place to resolve disputes with new gTLD applicants unhappy with ICANN's decisions.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult for the African Union Commission to explain to not only its member states but also other African stakeholders, why the dot Africa application has become so challenging for ICANN to expedite despite the various statements made towards the need to support developing regions," said Elham Ibrahim, the commissioner in charge of infrastructure and energy at the AU.
Management of the .africa TLD has been hotly contested between South Africa's ZA Central Registry (ZACR), which is backed by the AU, and the DCA Trust organization. The ZACR bid was approved and contracts signed, but Dot Connect Africa filed an objection with the IRP, forcing .africa launch operations to be halted.
"ICANN is also frustrated with the time required for a final determination in the .AFRICA IRP to be issued; the IRP is envisioned as an expedited process, with even the Bylaws suggesting that an IRP reach conclusion within six months of filing," said Chehade. "ICANN has, at every opportunity, encouraged the panel overseeing the .AFRICA IRP to proceed with expediency and requested the prompt consideration of matters before the .AFRICA IRP panel when appropriate, and will continue to do so."
The AU is apprehensive that Africa will not be able to make considerable progress in the domain business given the launch of .africa is already late.
"We are deeply concerned that there is no definite date provided for the IRP decision," Ibrahim said.
In his response, Chehade insisted that the IRP must complete its obligations under ICANN bylaws. The topic of Africa's marginalization and participation is expected to be raised at the Government Advisory Committee at the ICANN meeting in London next week.