As the date for the launch of the new dotAfrica (.Africa) domain draws closer, it’s vitally important that African governments reserve names that are important to them. In this regard, the government Reserved Names List for the African Union Commission (AUC) and ZA Central Registry (ZACR) dotAfrica generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) is currently open.

“Benin was the first African country to reserve a name – Benin.Africa – and four other countries have nominated entities to submit names on their behalf. Aside from Benin, these countries are Mauritius, Senegal, Algeria and Niger,” says Alice Munyua of the AUC and ZACR dotAfrica project.

“Other countries need to place their important names on the RNL or they will miss out, and risk seeing names being taken by commercial and other entities when the Reserved Names List process closes in February 2014,” says Munyua.

The Government Reserved Names Policy is intended to protect various categories of names associated with individual African States. Governments will receive priority in registering certain categories of names, including the names of countries, regions, provinces, governments, government departments and so on. Also included are other domain names that relate directly to official governmental initiatives, such as the promotion of trade or tourism.

Several resources have been made available to ensure an efficient and effective RNL process. These include the Reserve Name List portal, which aims to provide a knowledge base for RNL and to facilitate efficient submission of reserve names. In addition, the RNL guidelines provide practical information on policies, processes and requirements.

Munyua says that when the ICANN registration process is complete and dotAfrica is opened up for use, companies and individuals will be able to apply for names. She says she expects the rush for suitable names to be significant, and cautions that governments should act rapidly to protect important names.

The plan to create the dotAfrica gTLD name has been endorsed by African governments, through the African Union Commission as well as their ICT ministers, and other representative stakeholders after extensive cross-continental consultation. The ZACR has been endorsed as the official operator of the dotAfrica registry.

The dotAfrica Reserved Names Policy may be accessed on the AfricaInOneSpace.Org site.

Munyua reminds all stakeholders that the Reserved Names List process closes in February 2014.