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SA internet ecosystem more mature than African counterparts

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 22 Jan 2024
With 62% of peers, SA has more peers at its seven exchanges than the rest of Africa put together, says ICANN.
With 62% of peers, SA has more peers at its seven exchanges than the rest of Africa put together, says ICANN.

South Africa’s internet ecosystem is more advanced that those of its African counterparts.

This is according to the draft final report of the 2023 Africa Domain Name Industry Study, by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The report reveals South Africa has the highest number of internet domain registrations, as well as internet exchange points (IXPs) on the African continent.

The study was commissioned by ICANN, as part of an initiative under the Coalition for Digital Africa, to assess the evolving domain name system market and economic trends in Africa that describe and quantify the overall potential of the domain name industry in the region.

ICANN is a non-profit organisation (NPO) responsible for co-ordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.

The NPO notes the highest number of domain name registrations by African entities takes place mainly in countries where the local hosting industry and web development sector have developed sufficiently to create demand for local domains in SA, Egypt, Mauritius, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tunisia and Morocco.

It notes there are many more registrars than the 13 ICANN-accredited ones that are active in Africa.

For example, SA has the most, at 622 registrars accredited by the ZA Registry Consortium (ZARC), says ICANN.

ZARC is an NPO currently managing various .za second level domains, such as,, and

With over 1 250 000 domain name registrations, the majority of these domain names are under

The report shows SA has over 1.3 million domain names registered, and the bulk of these are in the registry.

Registrar boom

ICANN adds that 52 African countries now have at least one registrar, with 16 countries having only one (typically the registry itself), whereas 36 countries have multiple registrars.

“Our analysis shows the number of registrars is clearly a factor in the number of ccTLD [country code top-level domain] domains sold, although it is also true that a successful industry attracts more registrars,” the organisation says.

The draft report also reveals that in all countries except SA (which is mature), there has been significant growth in the number of African domains, as infrastructure rollout has increased in many countries, albeit off a low base.

The research expects this trend to continue – projecting an average annual overall growth across the continent of 12%, based on the annualised growth of domains counted by Domaintools, averaged across all countries.

However, it points out it should be noted that this average obscures large variations between countries, ranging from -17% (Gabon) to 57% (Chad).

ICANN says as of October 2023, there were 63 IXPs in Africa. “This means there are still 16 countries using international links for their local traffic,” the NPO says.

In contrast, it adds, there are 19 African countries with more than one IXP, with South Africa leading this group, followed by Tanzania.

The N’Djamena Internet Exchange Point in Chad is the latest established IXP, serving 16 local members since February 2023.

South Africa leads with seven IXPs, followed by Tanzania with five IXPs, Nigeria with four and Cameroon, DRC and Kenya with three IXPs each.

In SA, the seven IXPs are in two sets, one operated by INX-ZA in each of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Gqeberha, and the other operated by NAPAfrica, again in the first three cities.

In both cases, ICANN says, some operators peer at more than one city. Of the 345 peers listed at NAPAfrica, only 233 have unique autonomous system numbers. In other words, it notes, a number of these operators peer at more than one NAPAfrica IXP.

ICANN explains that although none of the individual parameters of an IXP have a good correlation with the number of domain names, there is a clear – and logical – correlation between the total number of domain names registered in a country, and the total number of network prefixes routed over the IXPs in that country.

“The number of network prefixes and the number of domain names are effective measurements of the size of the internet ecosystem within the country.

“There is an argument that if one national IXP keeps national traffic local, several provincial IXPs will further localise traffic exchange. This is why several countries have multiple IXPs, namely SA, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya and Nigeria,” ICANN says.

Peering dominance

With 62% of peers, SA has more peers at its seven exchanges than the rest of Africa put together, with Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania following distantly behind, it states.

However, ICANN says this can be misleading, as larger networks will connect to several IXPs.

“In terms of total traffic flowing over the exchanges, SA again dominates the continent, followed by Tanzania, Angola, Nigeria and Uganda.”

The longer an IXP has been operating within a country, the more effect one would expect it to have in terms of building up a local hosting and data centre industry, and hence contribute to the sale of domain names.

“Once again, South Africa leads, followed by Tanzania, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya,” ICANN says.

ICANN is seeking the community’s input on the draft final report of the 2023 Africa Domain Name Industry Study. It is anticipated that the final report will be published by March 2024.