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ICANN Middle East and Africa Region: A Year in Review

14 December 2023

This year was doubly special for ICANN and ICANN's Middle East and Africa (MEA) regional office in Istanbul. In 2023, ICANN commemorated its 25th anniversary, and the regional office commemorated its 10th year of operation.

In addition to commemorating these remarkable anniversaries, in this blog we a provide a quick overview of the many accomplishments of the ICANN MEA team in 2023. The year proved to be both busy and fruitful as all ICANN offices around the world, including our Istanbul office, resumed full in-person operations on 9 January 2023. With the reopening of our offices, our regional engagement efforts returned to in-person or hybrid activities.

ICANN staff in MEA come from different functions across the organization and contribute significantly to implementing major programs and projects aimed at achieving ICANN's strategic goals. To accomplish this, our regional engagement team follows a three-pronged approach:

  • Promoting ICANN's technical role and related initiatives
  • Facilitating participation in ICANN's multistakeholder process
  • Maintaining relationships with stakeholders and expanding audiences

Throughout the year, the Global Stakeholder Engagement (GSE) team in MEA organized 66 different engagement activities, reaching over 3,100 participants. These events were divided into three categories: 50 percent were in-person, 30 percent were virtual, and 20 percent were hybrid. Approximately, 60 percent of the engagements were technical in nature, encompassing hands-on training and technical webinars. The tangible outcomes of these technical engagements include:

  • Türkiye's country code top-level domain (.tr) signed into the root zone using Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC)
  • Internet service providers and operators also activated DNSSEC validation in Pakistan, Rwanda, Ghana, and Uganda
  • The inaugural Mobile Network Operator Day was held, which aimed at enhancing ICANN's collaboration with operators in Africa

Universal Acceptance (UA) remained a top priority in 2023. Our region was responsible for 41 percent of the events held to inaugurate Universal Acceptance Day on 28 March 2023. Twenty-one different MEA countries participated. Additionally, the UA Program team in MEA facilitated the work of the Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG), enhancing the visibility and awareness of UA projects, and supporting the launch of UA Day, along with new local initiatives.

The New Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) Program: Next Round Implementation Plan presented a major milestone for ICANN in 2023. The plan included an engagement and outreach component to promote greater digital inclusion. Accordingly, our MEA regional team kicked off engagement and outreach activities at several events, including: the Middle East DNS Forum (Istanbul, Türkiye), Africa Engagement Forum (Accra, Ghana), Africa Internet Governance Forum (Abuja, Nigeria), Africa Internet Summit (Johannesburg, South Africa), Domain Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirate), and the 11th Africa Information and Communication Technology Alliance (AfICTA) Annual Summit.

On the ICANN's Contracted Parties front, the Global Domains Division Accounts and Services (GAS) maintained relationships with them, collaborating with the GSE and Contractual Compliance teams to ensure that MEA registries and registrars stayed informed about developments related to their work with ICANN. The MEA GAS team has contributed to several major achievements in 2023, including:

  • Improving ICANN's funding forecast to achieve 98.7 percent accuracy in predicting the ICANN Fiscal Year 2023 Budget versus actual funding levels.
  • Initiating a review and championing updates to the Domain Name Marketplace Indicators based on indicator utilization levels alongside the effort required to generate them.
  • Assisting registrants affected by force majeure events who may have been unable to renew their domain names in a timely manner.

The MEA Policy Development Support team facilitated the community's development of bottom-up policies. In 2023, the team contributed to enhancing the Community Regional Outreach Program, which resumed after a three-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team also supported the Asian, Australasian, and Pacific Islands Regional At-Large Organization (APRALO) General Assembly, held on 12–13 September 2023 in Istanbul, Türkiye. The event was dedicated to fostering collaboration, networking, and strategic discussions within the APRALO community, bringing together 68 participants.

In November 2023, Telecom Egypt announced the launch of the ICANN Managed Root Server (IMRS) installation in Cairo, Egypt. This marked the second IMRS installation in Africa, implemented as part of the Coalition for Digital Africa initiative.

As we look forward to 2024, we plan to build on what we have achieved in 2023. We anticipate that engagement around ICANN's technical role will remain at the top of our MEA agenda. More effort will be made to promote UA adoption and spread awareness of the next round of new gTLDs. Moreover, next year promises to be very exciting for MEA as two ICANN Public Meetings will take place in the region: ICANN80, 10–13 June in Kigali, and ICANN81, 9–14 November in Istanbul.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation for the ICANN MEA team for their dedication and hard work. Here's to many more years of success and achievements!


Baher Esmat

Baher Esmat

VP, Stakeholder Engagement - Middle East & Managing Director MEA