dotAfrica domainBy this time next year, Africa should have its own Internet domain name–dot Africa. The only issues left to decide before dot.Africa is up and running is which registry operator will manage the domain suffix.

More than 500 companies have applied for the opportunity. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global company responsible for allocating Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and managing the systems, will make its decision in the first quarter of 2013.

This will be a “top level” domain name. According to ICANN, a top level domain name is one of the domains at the highest level in the order of Domain Name System of the Internet.

This is more than significant as it will allow businesses in Africa to conduct business online more seamlessly. “The significance is that Africa can brand itself more effectively with this identity. When a company has its website tailored to the African domain structure, it has a higher propensity to be successful in the global market. It is about branding and an Africa-focused domain will give the continent presence that it can use to expand its online economic universe,” explains Ndubuisi Ekekwe, founder of African Institution of Technology, an institution dedicated to the facilitation and diffusion of emerging technologies in Africa by working with SMEs, governments and universities.

The domain name will help change perceptions some people have about Africa as well, he notes. “The Internet is emerging as the largest market in the world,” says Ekekwe. “And it is very important that Africa is positioned to tap into the opportunity. Creating an African identity online will be strategic in developing new markets and facilitating digital commerce in ways that brands African products effectively. With the redesign of the ICANN domain structure, it is ripe for Africa to take its place on the Internet.”