While .africa finally went on sale last week after years of legal fights, it seems Africans may find themselves in the minority of registrants.
A combination of awareness, pricing and anticipated interest from Chinese domain investors, means that Africans could account for as few as 1 in 10 .africa registrations, according to Lucky Masilela, CEO of .africa registry ZA Central Registry.
The domain went into its sunrise period last week, and has a multi-phased launch planned out that will last until July 1, 2018.
After the trademark owners have had their crack at the domain — Masilela tells us that South Africa brands such as Nando’s are among the first to grab theirs — there will be five phases in which domains will be open to all but priced at a premium.
Starting June 5 there will be five landrush periods of five day, each a kind of hybrid between the traditional landrush period and the kind of Early Access Period offered by Donuts and others.
Each landrush will see all names priced at a certain amount, with the amount going down at the start of each period — $5,000 to $2,000 to $1,000 to $500 (all USD).
In the event that any name is claimed by more than one registrant, there will be an auction for that name at the end of the period.
Then on July 4 comes the first period of “general availability”, from which point all domains will be first-come, first-served.
But for the first 28 days of GA, domains will be priced at $150, other than domains categorized by the registry as premium.
Domains then come down to a more affordable $18 wholesale.
But that’s not the end. ZACR has baked in a price reduction to $12.50 wholesale, due to kick in July 1 2018. From then on out, it’s business as usual.
Unlike similar TLDs such as .eu, there are to be no geographic restrictions on who can register .africa names, and Masilela said he expects registrants from Africa to be in a minority.
“I think were are looking at about 10% from the continent, growing gradually over the years,” Masilela said. “The next wave is going to be international registrars.”
“We have a big suspicion that we will probably see a huge uptake coming from the east, which is the China market,” he said. “They’ll probably come in and grab a large number of domain names.”
He said that Chinese investment in Africa offline is likely to be mirrored online.
Pricing is also likely to be a factor. While .africa will bottom out, ignoring periodic discounts, at $12.50, that’s still quite a lot more than you’d expect to pay for African ccTLDs. ZACR’s own .za costs about $4 per year.
The relatively high price of becoming ICANN accredited has also meant that while Africa has 50-something countries, there are currently only about half a dozen gTLD registrars based there.
ZACR proposes to counter this by offering a gateway service rather like the one it already offers in .joburg and .capetown, that would help bring its own .za registrars on board.