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Glimpses of African Participation at ICANN 54

Pierre DandjinouWe catch up with Pierre Dandjinou, VP, Stakeholder Engagement, ICANN, and one of the African Internet’s pioneers, to find out his thoughts about African participation at the ICANN54 Meeting.  

Can you tell us about the ICANN 54 Meeting Pierre?

ICANN54 was held this year from 18-22 October in Dublin at the magnificent Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) overlooking the Liffey River, a name that means ‘life’. And there definitely was much life in this meeting! We had 2,395 participants from 130 countries, out of which there were 150 Africans from over 20 African countries attending, including from a remote hub out of Nairobi. There is no denying that African attendance is increasingly becoming noticeable and this is good.

ICANN 54 had a tightly packed agenda, with the overarching topic focusing on the IANA stewardship transition and the ICANN Accountability framework that has mobilised the global multi-stakeholder community over the last 18 months. The African participation in the ‘transition’ work was commendable, with many contributing to the working groups, in addition to contributing to a major resolution to the GAC, on the so-called 'stress test 18'. That said, outstanding Africa related issues that were also discussed at ICANN 54 included the ICANN Africa Strategy, DotAfrica, AFRALO/AFRICANN’s statement on the transition, and ICANN’s stakeholder Engagement Office in Africa. A key highlight during ICANN54, for Africa, was the celebration of an African country, Zambia, which signed its domain name zone file (.ZM) this month. Additionally, Sierra Leone became a member of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), and the Economic Commission of the Central African States was welcomed as an observer.

Pierre, can you tell us more about ICANN’s AFRICA Strategy?

Three years into the Africa strategy, and reviewed by the community during the AFRINIC-21 meeting in Mauritius, updates were presented during the meeting to a full house with close to a hundred participants. Some of the highlighted key flagship projects that continue to be of importance are: the DNSSEC Roadshow; the DNS Entrepreneurship programme which includes the DNS Entrepreneurship Centre in Cairo and the DNS Incubator Centres; continuous special engagements with African registrars; the African ccTLDs Study, and the now growing in popularity African DNS Forum.

Nonetheless, while recognising the efforts made and the ground work set by ICANN’s Africa team, the community was also aware of a need to further enhance the programmes. They emphasised the necessity for metrics and continuous partnerships with the various stakeholders ensuring a sustained development of the strategy. A clear call to build on the solid foundations we have as we embark on the new ICANN FY26-FY20 harmonised plan.

Do you have any updates for us on Dot Africa?

The community was briefed on the latest developments after the Independent Panel Review’s final declaration and ICANN’s Board’s decision on pursuing with the evaluation of the DCA trust’s bid. Fadi Chehadé's speech at the AFRALO meeting greatly acknowledged the work of AFRALO and he is very passionate about the African cause.

Tell us more about the AFRALO/AFRICANN Statement:

AFRALO, the African RALO (Regional At large Organisations) has maintained its now ‘established’ tradition of updating the African ICANN community at every ICANN meeting. It also allows for the African community to input into ICANN policy, by providing their position on certain issues related to ICANN, summed up in an African Statement presented to the ICANN Board. No surprises -  this year’s statement was on the IANA stewardship transition and an analysis of the frameworks being developed.

What about ICANN’s Engagement Centre in AFRICA?

Many African community members present at ICANN 54 seized the opportunity to explore the idea of having an ICANN Engagement Centre in Africa. Indeed, while ICANN today has three African staff in different regions of the continent, many still look forward to a physical presence much like ICANN’s Engagement Centres in Europe, Latin America, the US and Asia. The question was also brought up during the public forum on Thursday, the last session at the ICANN54 meeting.

So the next ICANN will be in Africa! The ICANN 55 Meeting takes place in Marrakech from 5-10 March 2016. What can we look forward to?

Good news. ICANN is heading back to Africa once more, after the Durban meeting in 2013. The Moroccan Ambassador to Ireland attended both the opening and closing ceremonies of ICANN 54, extending a gracious invitation to the audience to attend the 55th Public Meeting of ICANN in Marrakech, Morocco.

ICANN 55 will bring to the continent yet another packed agenda. We definitely hope and are looking forward to a larger and engaged African participation, with a ‘transitioning’ ICANN with a new stewardship platform for IANA’s functions christened on the continent,  and a well-deserved farewell to Fadi Chehadé, ICANN’s outgoing CEO.  He brought ‘the New Season’ to ICANN, symbolised by the development of ICANN Africa in 2012 -  a strategy that seeks deeper African participation in ICANN and supports the nascent African DNS industry and business. Once more, let’s all prepare to welcome the world to Africa for a grand ICANN55 in Marrakech, Morocco, predictably, a defining meeting in the history of ICANN and the entire Internet.

Thank you Pierre for all the great work that you are doing to bring Africa to the global level!


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