Monday, June 6, 2011

The Ridiculously Expensive African ccTLD Domain Names

This weekend, i was having a look at the unexplored ccTLD markets in Africa. There are 95+ million .com domain names so virtually every great name is taken so why not venture into the virgin world of ccTLDs, I told myself.
To my utter shock, I saw prices that seemed straight out of a dream, so I pinched myself twice and had another look. They were real!

Picture this: registering a .ke for Kenya will cost you $45 per year ;registering a .cd for the DRC will cost you $65 per year, registering a .et for Ethiopia will cost you $200 per year (the price has fallen significantly from $380 two years ago) and the crowning glory of all expensive ccTLD domain names in Africa must be the .ao for Angola that will cost you a whopping $300 per year but if you register it for two years, they might have mercy and give you a good $10 discount! And if you thought your woes were over, think again. It will take anywhere from 30 days to 10 weeks in some countries like Angola for the domain name to be activated. Registering a domain name in these African countries is like applying for a license to establish a multinational company!

But there are a few shining spots. South Africa, whose .za costs roughly $20 has registered a respectable 647,405 .za domain names according to my last count.

Now compare these with .com, .net, .co at $11 which generous discounts might bring down to $7.50, .info which goes for roughly $2 on GoDaddy etc and activation within hours. In Ethiopia the cost of one domain is roughly equivalent to 20 dotcoms. As a domainer, what would be my justification for buying a $200 domain name that is not that valuable anyway, only expensive? I would like to support African ccTLDs but let them get their act together; maybe governments should subsidize these registries to lower the cost in order to stimulate mass adoption? The African ccTLDs need a magical marketing plan to win their people back from .com,.nets and .cos with their current rates. Most young people, who are the internet entrepreneurs and have the ideas do not have that much cash to throw away; why not offer them special offers?

When someone has developed a domain for 1 year, they are unlikely to let it go and am sure if these ccTLD registries offered $2 domains for 1 year and then the following year they increase the cost a bit, they might net as much as million domain names registered; there are lots of techies in the scene; give them a lifeline and they will shine.

The ccTLDs should look into the not so distant future with clear eyes; there are over 500 generic Top Level domain names coming to the internet in the following year and some of them like .free will be free!. It's the equivalent of a Tsunami on the internet and those ccTLDs that do not adapt will be swept aside.
KENIC Marketing Campaign branded bags: Lower the costs first!!
 Moses Kemibaro, a Kenyan techpreneur who is also the Chairman of the KENIC Marketing Committee, gave a presentation 11 months ago in which he implied that .ke are not too expensive at $45. $45 when I can get a domain name for $2? The African ccTLDs don't get it, do they? By pricing the domain names in this way, they have kept them beyond the reach of the small businesses, upcoming entrepreneurs and their citizens. The African domain names are for an exclusive select few.  How do you foster innovation when people cannot access the tools of innovation? They are actually contributing to the digital divide! And it worries me to death that a consortium of these under-performing ccTLDs under the umbrella of AFTLD is planning to apply for the new .africa(DotAfrica) TLD; what will a DotAfrica domain name cost? $1000?