ICANN Africa strategy has been ICANN’s biggest foray into Africa, laden with many goodies and plans that were mean to create more awareness about ICANN in Africa.
In August 2012, this very strategy was announced by ICANN and after holding a meeting, involving Steve Crocker, Chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors, ICANN’s CEO-Designate Fadi Chehadé and its Interim CEO Akram Atallah with the select invitees of what ICANN defined as “African community members” at ICANN’s 44th Public Meeting, in Prague, Czech Republic.
Come 2016, four (4) years and many plans later, it looks like it remains the same recycled Africa strategy with the same organizers and delegates talking about the same Africa strategy, i.e. how to fund the strategy; how to make it effective and advance ICANN in the developing continent with the main focus being on the annual DNSSEC road shows in several places of Africa. But, has this Africa strategy had any tangible benefits so far? For many close observers, it appears that it is been a strategy that was pegged on and the usual behind the scene efforts to “gift” the controversial .africa top level domain name to the “special interest group” represented by the AUC DotAfrica TaskForce a.k.a #DotAfricaCabal.
Looking at the history of “Africa Strategy” which really started at the ICANN 42nd Dakar Senegal in 2011, it has really employed the process of inviting government ministers to give weight to whatever ICANN wanted from Africa through a ‘resolution’ to be passed by African Ministerial Round-table in Dakar, with the Assistance of the ‘self appointed African Internet leaders‘ comprised of the #DotAfrica Cabal, which ICANN accepted their apprenticeship as representatives of the “African Internet Community” to influence ICANN’s position in Africa.
Quoting Sophia Bekele who has been fighting the above ‘vested group’ for very long, in her Circle ID article of February 2015 over a year ago, she predicted rightfully I will say:
Therefore till today, if I shall give a heads up, should the script to bring in more governments in Marrakesh be written by the same playwright, and mirror what we experienced with “Africa Agenda” Dakar, it will be another tragedy for ICANN and the African Community’s expectation.
It would not be a coincidence then, that at the ICANN 55th meeting in March 2016, in Marrakesh Morocco with Steven Crocker the ICANN Chair speaking during the high level meeting appreciated the presence of high number of attendees especially from the government noting:
“our presence today in such high numbers of governments, civil society, and business attendees reflect our sincere commitment to africa ..…[cnt’d]…..this high-level government meeting will be the largest of its type that icann has ever hosted more than 170 ministers and high-level government representatives are attending.”
These Ministers, according to investigative reports such as Aptantech were invited to have a delegation signing ceremony which could have in effect acted as a crowning moment for the outgoing CEO, Fadi Chehade emerging as the African ICANN CEO .
It may not be another coincidence then that of Deja vu Dakar that ICANN announced a resolution that the Board authorizes the President and CEO (of ICANN), or his designee(s), to proceed with the delegation of .AFRICA to be operated by ZACR pursuant to the Registry Agreement that ZACR has entered with ICANN and DCA Trust got a court order to stop the delegation of .Africa, which makes Bekele’s forecast of tragedy on point.
Recall that DCA announced its Triumph in Dakar after stopping the AUC from obtaining the rights to .africa and its similar names .afrique and .afriqia under a special legislative protection by requesting from ICANN to reserve the names to be managed and operated by “the structure” that is “selected and identified,by the African Union. DCA won that battle already in Dakar as much as it repeated it in Marrakesh with the Court order.
On the other hand, the issue of having government delegations attend ICANN meetings in large numbers, but the charm offensive by ICANN to have governments to boost its perceived support base only makes ICANN’s strategy fail. In the ongoing debate of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder, non-governmental led Internet Governance structure, that is emerging, thanks to also the precedence setting DCA vs ICANN IRP, which exemplified the debate, Governments have been attributed as simply observers or rather advisors, than active decision making parties, mainly because governments have already existing laws and need to find a multi-stakeholder way to work with other stakeholders. ICANN has been seeking in more than numerous ways to expand the power of governmental voice within its advisory committees leading to an outcry. This of course has been attributed by many as ICANN’s way of trying to get support from International governments for the independence from US regulation, which they have been visibly lobbying.
Africa strategy 1.0 Tyranny of governments is equal to ICANN’s smooth road to controversy.
If we concentrate on what ICANN has done in Africa especially at the onset of the new gTLDs, a look at Dakar specifically paints a better picture for what Marrakech 2016 was meant to be. In October 2011 during the ICANN 42nd meeting in Dakar, Senegal African governments in a bid to do an early capture and closure of .Africa put forward a proposal through the AU DotAfrica Task Force members a.k.a #DotAfricaCabal purportedly sanctioned by Ministers (Governments) to reserve .Africa related names as part of an ‘African Agenda’ Ministerial Roundtable meeting.
The same meeting as prepared in earnest on the platform of the AU Task Force on DotAfrica was also to influence a wrongful endorsement of a newly formed, unregistered organization called Africa Registry Consortium (ARC) by the African Union. ARC surprisingly did not even exist at the time the African Union Commission called for Expressions of Interests (EOI) on DotAfrica in May 2011, and a new development in Africa’s registry of .Africa.future.
DotConnectAfrica, the Pioneer of the .Africa New gTLD, successfully opposed both these actions –Reserving the .Africa name by the AUC and the Endorsement of the ARC to its favor, but also marked the start of an unsuccessful ICANN’s agenda for Africa, anchored on the battle for a .Africa gTLD.
In June 2017, almost another year in two months, according to ICANN, the Africa meeting is to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa. I wonder if there will be an Africa Strategy 3.0, what the Africa Agenda will look like, how many ministers will attend?. The big question is would the road to ICANN South Africa be premised on the same exclusive ICANN Africa strategy that have failed Africans from the shackles of ICANN Dakar to ICANN Marrakesh.
The Drama continues!