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IANA Stewardship Transition & Enhancing ICANN Accountability: Why does it matter for Africa?

22 May 2015

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In a recent discussion with an African Diplomat accredited to the UN in New York, he had this question for me: "why does the IANA stewardship thing matter at all for Africa? "

This gave birth to our launch of the Africa special month in April through to this month, on the IANA Stewardship Transition & Enhancing ICANN Accountability revival. During these two months, we organized 1-2 hour sessions/webinars/teleconferences and face-to-face meetings in several countries in Africa led by local community leaders and stakeholders in the Internet ecosystem at the National level. The intention was to generate a more tangible awareness of the transition and collate the different countries’ perspectives on the processes, in a formal communiqué.

It has been over a year since the NTIA announcement tasked ICANN to convene an inclusive and global discussion to determine a process for transitioning the stewardship of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community. Indeed since that announcement, the global community has worked tirelessly and with great resilience and determination resulting in two parallel processes namely:

  • IANA Stewardship Transition: Focused on delivering a proposal to transition the stewardship of the IANA functions to the multistakeholder community.
  • Enhancing ICANN Accountability: Focused on ensuring that ICANN remains accountable in the absence of its historical contractual relationship with the U.S. Government.

Our team in Africa developed a communication strategy whereby African discussion lists were used to seek interest and readiness to organize the country consultations to discuss these processes and look at ways of involvement. A total of 14 countries agreed to enter into that one-month experience. As we now head to the end of the experience, a few lessons and observation come to mind.

  1. A true multi stakeholder approach was observed in most countries visited. For instance, in Ghana, the Ministry of ICT was key in the preparation, with the support of other entities such as the ISOC Chapter, NTIA, AITI…to name a few. In Burkina Faso the Ministry in charge of digital economy and postal services spearheaded the movement, with the presence of the Prime Minister and key ministers, different agencies and stakeholders from business, academia and civil society movements. In Tunisia, and Uganda, the national consultation was also blessed with attendance from Ministers and key decision makers.
  2. ICANN’s SO and AC: the Benefit of reaching out to and relying on individuals who are already participating in the dialogues;
  3. The Importance of Webinars and Online Conferences: The support provided by ICANN staff to make this happen, opened up the opportunity for key presenters -either members of the ICG, CWG or ICANN staff - to be part of our meetings and provide important insight and updates to the communities in Africa. As well as indicate sources for further appraisal and contributions to drafts and posted documents
  4. Groups of volunteers were formed to condense the drafts to the benefit of the whole country. While most participants in these national consultations applauded the initiative, it was also felt that it may now be hard for some to catch up with the global stakeholders who started a few months ago, and also found the reading of the produced documents as an immense and daunting task.
  5. Each country developed statements unique to them, based on its intake of the current processes. For instance, Ghana is for an open and secure Internet., The Minister insisted on their willingness to strengthen the multistakeholder process. As he himself put it "I am happy to note the level of multi-stakeholder organization that has been employed by ICANN and its technical institutions, broadening the discussions to reflect the supportive roles and responsibilities of Governments". In Burkina Faso, participants agreed on a statement addressed to ICANN which encapsulated most of their recommendations
  6. The IANA Stewardship Transition proposal: In most places, participants insisted that the proposal submitted to the NTIA should seek to be neutral, and inclusive of all sensitivities and cultures
  7. Recurrent questions during the national consultations: Will the expected proposal be accepted by the NTIA, what happens if ICANN’s contract was not renewed; how does one guarantee a say from Governments; whether this proposal would not impact on selection of Board members who might now considered a numeri clausus for governments.

And back to our African Diplomat’s question, one would say that the heated discussions, the willingness to understand the on going process and the diversified representations to the national consultation all translate loud and clear to Africa’s interest in the process.

As one participant puts it, 'Africa did not invent the Internet; so far, it has not fully contributed to its industry and business; now it should not let go of this opportunity to contribute to the governance of the Internet'!


Sagbo Pierre Dandjinou

Sagbo Pierre Dandjinou

VP, Stakeholder Engagement - Africa