The Internet continues to grow at a radical pace, in spite of the global recession, but a sad reality is that the African country domain names are not growing into a strong force. This could be because of a lack of government support that has resulted in a sort of “Internet colonialism” being practised.
There are fewer than 1-million African country domain name registrations, says Vika Mpisane, GM of .za Domain Name Authority and Chairman of African Top Level Domains. But this figure must be seen in the overall context because, Mpisane observes, with many millions of registrations on non-African domains, such as .com, and .net.
“Had African businesses registered under their countries’ domains, then a far different picture would have emerged.”
Among the reasons causing African businesses to register outside African domains could be the ongoing challenge of local ICT infrastructure in Africa.
For a country domain to work, it is not enough to have the local Internet industry to support it, there should be clear government support and investment as well. “It is because of the lack of government support that a substantial number of African domains are not growing," says Mpisane.
An then there is the fact that some African domains are not even operated by local entities a person in Europe, America or elsewhere might run the domain of an African country in a modern-day Internet colonialism scenario.
“More often than not the cause for this is that certain governments were not willing in the first place to invest in supporting their domains, which is sad because when a domain is operated outside that country, the country misses out on an opportunity to develop skills locally,” says Mpisane.
“Not only that, but the money made out of domain name registrations goes to people outside that country. If this trend continues, then Africa might as well learn to accept the digital divide.
“Africa needs to build its local e-commerce and develop the much-needed ICT skills. If a government does not take a leadership role and mobilize local Internet community, it might as well accept that it is, and will remain, an Internet colony and its master is likely somebody outside its borders.”
He adds that it is of utmost importance that each country in Africa has its domain operated locally. “Experience in locally operated domains such as .za has shown that the country domain is an important enabler in getting more businesses and individuals to have their own websites ending with their country’s domain, and also to boost local e-commerce.”