What Is dotAfrica and How African Businesses Are Set To Benefit From It

The legal and cost implications you should consider and the 6 ways the move can help you create a strong online brand


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Soon African businesses will be able to trade online using the dotAfrica domain name.

But what does this mean for you and your business?

Similar to dotCom, Africa now has its own domain. The move sees the continent catching up to the rest of the world. 

According to a statement released by ZA Central Registry (ZACR), the dotAfrica domain name for brand owners presents "an opportunity to forge a unique online identity which will associate your products, services and/or information with the continent and people of Africa".

Other benefits include "showcasing the brand and its commitment to the continent, establishing a home for Africa-specific products and services, expanding the brand’s regional influence, and acquiring valuable online real-estate in a fast-growing and high-potential market".

Looking ahead, the dotAfrica domain is expected to see the same growth that country-specific domains such as dotCO.ZA, dotRW, dotNG or dotKE have experienced, but on a continental level.

ZACR said in the same statement that the sunrise period for registrations, which opened earlier this month, closes on 2 June. After the 60-day period that favours registered and recognised brand owners, the dotAfrica domain name registration will be opened to the general public from 4 July. It said, domain names would also be registered on a first come first served basis.

Here are the benefits, costs and legal implications of going dotAfrica for your business.

1. TO CREATE A STRONG BRAND

  • Showcase your brand and commitment to Africa's growth and development - A dotAfrica domain name has the potential to give your brand credibility within an African context. "Having a dotAfrica domain name is a boost to online brand positioning," Ghislain Nkeramugaba, CEO of RICTA told Rwanda Today. By positioning your brand as 'proudly African', you have the potential to connect with customers who share the sentiment. This brand positioning can also help your business stand out to your target audience by differentiating you from competitors who don't have a dotAfrica domain name.
  • You stop being invisible - With the expected increase in interest around the launch of the dotAfrica domain name later this year, businesses can benefit due to number of eyes that will be focused on the new arrival.
  • Another benefit of having the domain name is better search results online, says Nkeramugaba. "By having a [dotAfrica] domain name, people who search for something local, will most likely be directed to your site especially because if you are already indexed, you will appear in the first pages of the search list."
    Appearing on the first pages of search results increases the number of visits to a site, he adds.
    This has become an integral part of search engine optimization (SEO) strategies aimed at getting traffic from the free, organic search results on search engines.
  • Establish a home for Africa-specific services, products and information - Businesses with a dotAfrica domain name will be perceived by consumers as being locally present.
    "You want people who visit your website to know that you are operating within the continent," Nkeramugaba said.
    What people may not know as well is that by having a dotAfrica domain name, your business will be part of endorsing the dotAfrica initiative which will allow you to display the dotAfrica support logo on your branded products, services and website.
  • Acquire valuable online real-estate in a fast-growing high potential market - With the continent increasingly going online, and more people gaining access to the internet through the proliferation of smartphones, Africa is seen as a potentially lucrative market for businesses.
  • Identify with the continentOne the biggest benefits of the launch of the dotAfrica domain name is that it will give businesses the space to expand their footprint and influence in the region​. Ivan Alia, a web entrepreneur at e-business developers, told Rwanda Today the main benefit of having a country or continent web address is identity.


See also: Building a Website for Your Business? Here Are 5 Concepts You Must Know

 

2. COSTS RELATED TO REGISTERING A DOTAFRICA DOMAIN

  • How much you can expect to pay - Alongside the benefits that businesses will gain from registering a dotAfrica domain name, there will be some costs to it. These will depend on a number of factors, according to the ZACR website.
    These include pricing according to individual registrar (organisations accredited to register domain names), the launch phase which you register the domain - whether during the more expensive Sunrise Period, the Landrush Period or least expensive General Availability period. Another cost factor is whether the domain you are registering is a premium name or not.
  • Masilela, however, indicated in a Business Day article  that dotAfrica addresses will be available at a cut-rate price of just $18 to anyone on the continent.

3. LEGAL IMPLICATIONS 

  • Secure and protect your Intellectual Property Rights (IP) - In terms of legal implications, one of the first benefits that businesses will have is being given first preference to register their trademarked names. Trademark owners have been given a head start to secure dotAfrica domain names matching their registered trademarks before being launched to the public in July. This 60-days Sunrise Period, which opened earlier this month and closes on 2 June, is to help companies and IP holders secure their trademarked name.
    According to an African News Agency article, trademark owners who do not secure their .africa domain names during the current 60-day sunrise phase may not be able to guarantee the availability of their .africa domain names."
    "The very real possibility of opportunists registering one’s trademarks exists and it is best prevented by the simple act of applying now for .africa domain names that match registered or validated intellectual property," Masilela told the publication.
  • Legal framework that aims to protect you - There are a number of protection mechanisms and policies which, if you register a dotAfrica domain name, your business will get to enjoy. These include policies such as Rights Protection Policies, Dispute Resolutions, Sunrise Policy and Landrush Policies which the Registry Operator as well as ICANN, the non-profit that governs internet addressesneed to adhere to.
    "In order to ensure responsible growth, the dotAfrica registry will place special emphasis on securing the rights of intellectual property owners, Internet users and the broader African community during the Sunrise Period and beyond,"  Masilela says in a press release.
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