The Africa Domain Name System (DNS) Forum, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 5–6 October 2022, attracted more than 200 participants. This marked the 10th year of this multistakeholder DNS industry event. Over the years, the DNS Forum has evolved to become an annual destination for stakeholders in the domain name industry in Africa, organized by Africa Top Level Domains Organization, the Africa Registrar Association, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Since the first edition of the DNS Forum was held in Durban, South Africa in 2013, the model has been replicated throughout the world – from Latin America and the Caribbean to the Middle East and Europe, to North America and Asia-Pacific. Additionally, several national-level DNS forums continue to emerge, thanks to the inspiration of the Africa DNS Forum. One can say that there is always something new from Africa!
I feel proud of what this event has achieved over the years, and I extend warm congratulations to our organizing partners, sponsors, and the African DNS community, friends, and colleagues. They have played a critical role to ensure this event remains an industry catalyst in Africa. Because of this partnership and collaboration, the Africa DNS Forum has established itself as an annual gathering spot for the DNS community. The event provides a rich and effective platform for cross-fertilization of ideas that will help grow the DNS and Internet industry in Africa.
I believe that 10 years is a significant milestone in any journey, and therefore an important point to reflect on the forum from multiple viewpoints, posing questions, such as:
- What can we do differently?
- Is Africa committed to growing the African domain name space?
- How best can we collaborate as an industry with non-industry actors that also affect our business?
- What can we learn from the regions and markets that have become successful?
- The African Continental Free Trade Area: What's in it for the DNS?
Additionally, the Africa DNS Forum has consistently identified key national and cross-border issues that continue to challenge the growth of the industry. They include:
- Registry and registrar strategies vis-a-vis domain name growth and a competitive environment
- Legal issues
- Registrar accreditation in a borderless environment
- Governments and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs): transfer (formerly known as a redelegation) challenges
- Establishment of an Africa DNS observatory
- Need for greater participation by more countries, governments, and industries
When we look at the ten largest top-level domains by numbers, as identified in the Verisign Quarter 2 Report of 2022, there is no African ccTLD on the list. That represents an opportunity to me. The most recent ICANN DNS Market Study Report, released in 2017, showed less than five million domain registrations in Africa. ICANN is currently commissioning a new study to assess the present realities of the Africa DNS marketplace. At the same time, the youthful population in Africa remains an untapped fundamental resource. With more investment and better mentorship, this capital holds the key to continuing the growth of the Africa DNS marketplace and turning the DNS into a significant contributor to the overall GDP for Africa.
To this end, ICANN is reaffirming its commitment to supporting the evolution of the Africa DNS Forum and the African digital economy over the next ten years. That is why ICANN is scaling up our investment in Africa, including adding more staff.
I strongly believe that Africa has barely scratched the surface as a DNS industry. I am confident that after 10 years of "learning to walk," the DNS industry in Africa is now ready to run and realize its full potential.