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ICANN African Engagement Forum Galvanizes Continent’s Internet Community

16 August 2023

Group photos from the Africa Engagement Forum 2023.
Group photos from the Africa Engagement Forum 2023.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Association of African Universities (AAU) recently co-hosted the second Africa Engagement Forum (AEF) from 25 – 27 July 2023, in Accra, Ghana. The gathering, under the theme "Fostering Engagement for a Flourishing Digital Africa," aimed to encourage the involvement of African community members in Internet policymaking by promoting their participation in ICANN.

The second annual AEF attracted over 200 virtual and 170 in-person attendees from across Africa. Among the attendees were representatives from academic and research communities, civil society, and regulatory, governmental, and technical stakeholder groups.

Highlights and Insights from the Event

A significant part of the event was focused on the transformative activities of the Coalition for Digital Africa. Since launching its first project in 2022, the Coalition has emerged as a significant contributor in supporting the digital transformation of the continent. A panel discussion was held at the AEF where Coalition partners shared updates on ongoing initiatives.

One such project was the 2023 Africa Domain Name System (DNS) Market Study, commissioned by ICANN and conducted by Powersoft SA. Building on the methodology and results of the 2016 Africa DNS market study, this research will inform the coalition's future development priorities. The overarching goal is to advance growth in the African Internet industry, advancing the sector closer to its full potential.

ICANN's Global Stakeholder Engagement – Africa team has been actively implementing the ICANN Africa Regional Plan for Fiscal Years 2020 – 2025. The AEF provided an opportunity to present a mid-term report on this strategy. The first day of the event featured a keynote address by Mouhamet Diop, Chair of AfRegistrar, on the topic of Africa's digital potential.

The conversation held at the ICANN Community Update session focused on ongoing work, policy development, and topics relevant to Africa, with a rallying call for increased active participation. A presentation on the next round of applications for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) preceded a panel discussion on past experiences in applying for new gTLDs in 2012, and expectations and potential opportunities for the African market with regard to gTLDs.

Updates from the ICANN Office of the Chief Technical Officer (OCTO) on various ongoing ICANN initiatives across Africa were also shared. These included the Knowledge-sharing and Instantiating Norms for Domain Name Security (KINDNS) initiative, DNS Abuse Activity Reporting (DAAR) system, outreach efforts for securing DNS operations, and capacity development efforts.

ICANN Achievements and Efforts

Some of ICANN's key achievements included 42 hands-on training activities in Africa in 2022 (plus 13 so far in 2023), supporting 13 country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), reducing zone configuration issues by 70 percent and increasing Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) validation from 10 percent to 31 percent. ICANN also provided technical support on coalition initiatives like DNSSEC roadshows, capacity development for ccTLD registries, and the development of Internet exchange points.

ICANN hosted a technical workshop titled "DNSSEC Validation to Protect Your End Users," in parallel with the African Regional At-Large Organization General Assembly. This workshop targeted chief technical officers, chief information officers, information technology network managers, and IT engineers, delving into DNSSEC validation.

During the AEF Community Forum, the African community engaged in a question-and-answer session with ICANN. The discussion touched on the ICANN Africa Regional Plan for Fiscal Years 2021 – 2025, the ICANN Grant Program, DNS privacy developments, and geopolitical updates.

Throughout all AEF sessions, the running theme was the need for enhanced collaboration as the key to the realization of Africa's digital potential. ICANN reiterated its ongoing commitment to enhance the multistakeholder model, ensuring the representation of all stakeholders, and actively involving under-represented communities.

This year's AEF solidified its position as an essential gathering for fostering the future of a digital Africa, with a clear focus on unity, growth, and technological advancement.


25 July 2023

14:30 – 15:30 UTC

Opening Ceremony

16:00 – 17:00 UTC

The Africa DNS Market Study: Preliminary Findings

26 July 2023

09:00 – 10:30 UTC

ICANN Community Updates

11:00 – 12:30 UTC

Panel Discussion: Africa and the Next Round of New gTLDs: Challenges and Opportunities

14:00 – 15:30 UTC

Panel Discussion: Coalition for Digital Africa

16:00 - 17:00 UTC
Informational session: Technical Key Highlights for Africa

27 July 2023

09:00 – 10:30 UTC

Informational Session: Presentation on ICANN Key Topics

11:00 – 13:00 UTC

Community Forum and Closing Ceremony


See photos of the Africa Engagement Forum 2023 on our Flickr account.


Sagbo Pierre Dandjinou

Sagbo Pierre Dandjinou

VP, Stakeholder Engagement - Africa