You can finally sign up to get your own .africa domain name

Pan-African dream.
Pan-African dream.
Image: EPA/Jon Hrusa
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The South African-based ZA Central Registry (ZACR) will finally allow the general public to register for the .africa domain name until July 2018.

It comes after a four-year battle with the Kenyan digital non-profit, Dot Connect Africa (DCA), for the right to manage the rolling out process of the .africa domain name.

This week ZACR sent an email saying 54 African countries are now united under a “single, continent-wide domain name,” fulfilling a pan-Africanist vision which it compared to the goals of liberation leaders like former African National Congress (ANC) president, Oliver Tambo.

So far, over 8,000 companies, brands, and individuals from the continent and beyond have already registered to own the internet domain. In April, ZACR began the sunrise phase of the rolling out process, allowing trademark holders to register for the domain name. The land-rush phase was opened for premium name applicants in June. Applications were made available to the general public in early July for about a month, and were reopened on Aug. 2 for a period of 333 days.

The .africa domain joins the ranks of other top level domain (gTLD) names for the internet, such as .com and .net. But the quest for a distinctly African domain name is more than just a matter of cultural pride, economic benefit, and finding more regionally specific information. In 2012, the California-based, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the world’s internet addresses, created the General Top-Level Domains Internet Expansion Program to diversify the domain name market and provide more competition for applicants.

While ZACR won the bid for the .afrcia domain name in 2013, DCA launched successive motions to contest ICANN overseeing the claim, arguing that its procedures were unethical, biased, and lacking transparency. And while ICANN was later found to have questionable practices after an independent review, a California district court ruled in favor (pdf) of ZACR managing the .africa domain name for global and continent-wide distribution.