The other day I got an invite to visit .co.za (South Africa) registry and given my following or obsession over domains in Africa, I could not miss a chance, even if its just for the sake of writing a blog post.

The domain numbers in South Africa are impressive, compared to other African countries. Many countries have issues and .co.za has been cited as a model of how to market domains; .co.za has over 700,000 paid domains (the number is over 800,000 but you will always have suspended domains, those with disputes, etc its better to count paid ones) .org.za has over 20,000 domains and you can now add .ac.za etc. Compare that with .ke which has a total number of 18,000 domains, counting all the strings- .co.ke, .ac.ke, .me.ke etc.

.Za has been well supported by the local companies that have ventured into the region. For instance, Multichoice (DSTv) still uses .za emails for their employees all over Africa. Calculate the marketing value, whenever they advertise their contacts.

Indeed, Neil Dundas, one of the directors at UniForum, the .co.za registry, feels that the support from South African companies venturing into other markets has boosted the growth of .co.za uptake.

Local uptake

Apart from local companies venturing out, international companies setting up base have had to buy .za domains as a way of proving they are local. There was research done on .za domain perception by the .za Domain Authority, I will look it up and support my assertion with the data but the sheer number of domains can give you an idea of whether people like it or not.

Suffice to say that the marketing campaigns, training of registrars and the work under Coza foundation has helped a great deal. UniForum put in R40 million (abt KSh. 400 million) to start off the foundation. The foundation trains teachers among other outreach activities. Now its branching out as a separate entity so that it can receive money from other supporters.

But is that all?

One of the things that struck me when I got there was a team of customer support, I wondered why they needed but that is because the old Coza model interfaced with buyers/endusers/consumers, technically known as registrants. That is the old system, the new system incorporates registries but they are all served by the customer service team.

Then there was another team of developers, who are continually developing the Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP) that is robust and flexible that it allows registries and registrars to carry out transactions. Kenic has it for .ke and it has improved the time taken to register domains and also sends you alerts when your domain is registered or renewed, allowing you to keep tabs with your registrar. The older manual system is another story all together and unfortunately most registries in Africa are on some shade of that. You can read more about the EPP system here.

One of the other feature of the .za domain name space is their developed domain dispute resolution mechanism. Just read the news from the zadna to get an idea of how the disputes are dealt with.

Before this post becomes too long and I start digressing, Neil mentioned that one of the biggest drivers is the low cost. You can get a .co.za for R35+VAT which translates to Ksh 350+VAT. I have talked so much about the cost of .co.ke domains that am not going to belabor the point.

I hear some arguing that wanjiku.me.ke is available for Ksh 500 but why pay that for a second string while wanjiku.me may still be available on the top level?

What are your views?