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Africa IGF: Preparing ground for success or not?

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The African IGF is a growing initiative, but its management and consequently planning and relationship with host countries will be a tight to walk if the Africa union related bodies fail to follow the laid out protocols.

Africa holds its 2nd Internet Governance Forum, but will it achieve its desired goals

Who should control the Internet? Or perhaps who should set policies on who should control the internet?  That’s the question that gets discussed every year at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a UN initiative created in 2005.  As another online report puts it

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“The IGF brings together all of the key parties with a stake in the Internet governance debate – from governments, the private sector and civil society. At the time that the Internet Governance Forum was first proposed by the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) in 2004, it was expected to be able to be able to discuss international public policies regarding the Internet that fell outside the scope of existing bodies, and to make recommendations on such emerging issues where appropriate, in accordance with what would become its mandate in the Tunis Agenda.

 It did not seem at all outlandish at the time to suggest that “The Forum should be able to pass recommendations on to the concerned parties, and may also invite — or recommend that the United Nations invites — member states to discuss a certain issue in an official capacity, or via a vote in the United Nations General Assembly.”

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It’s not clear however that the agenda and discussions are forwarded to the main IGF will help to give stronger respect and attention. The almost default design is to have the National (country based) IGF’s feed into Regional IGF’s that then feed into the Continental IGF’s. Africa has hosted a second forum after First meeting of the (AfIGF2012), held on 2-4 October 2012, Cairo – Egypt.

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The 2nd IGF may not have achieved its full potential due to low attendance reported; further, building into this is a decision that is said to have given Kenya a go ahead to host it just a month into the planned dates. Key officials from the Kenya government including the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication and Technology, the ICANN president and other Key delegates who had been scheduled to attend and facilitate.

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Issues Raised
The Egypt IGF could have faced challenges as teething problems of setting up a continental IGF however the second its reported was much better if only the designated delegates would attend. Concerns over the secretariat as well as funding to make the future Africa IGF’s successful were raised. Delegates were asked on modalities of how to sustainably fund future IGF’s.  The country IGF’s themselves are suffering from shortage of funding and thus expected that funds would be a major challenge on how to make it successful. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the approach to the governments who may be unwilling to support the meetings due to how the AUC deals with the facilitation.

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Continued Problem with African Union in Internet Governance
The African Union and its arms AUC could do best to manage the Africa IGF as a supporter and facilitator rather than perhaps impose any ideas or procedures, it is best if the multistakeholder approach would be bottom up without sustaining a position that is principally held by any regional body.  With careful analysis it is easy to see that any project that is pushed forward by regional bodies without a balance of views from all stakeholders such as the private sector would leave a bitter taste in the mouth and trigger delegates to shun such conferences.

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James Barnley

I’m the editor of the DomainingAfrica. I write about internet and social media, focusing mainly on Domains. As a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll get a lot of information on Domain Issues, ICANN, new gtld’s, Mobile technology and social media.

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