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The African Internet Registry Has Problems

AFRINIC is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa: a non-profit, nongovernmental Internet governance organization, which operates a registry for unique internet protocol (IP) numbers that serve as network addresses. The registry records which organizations hold rights to which IP address blocks on that continent, and it also operates processes for members that set policies governing the allocation and assignment of IP addresses. In July AFRINIC’s bank accounts were provisionally frozen by court order, crippling its operations. The Supreme Court of Mauritius ordered up to $50m in AFRINIC bank accounts frozen as a result of a dispute with a Chinese company, Cloud Innovation. That company had bought up the rights to millions of IPv4 numbers from AFRINIC. Cloud Innovation licences out these IP addresses, mainly to non-African companies.

This is an extremely profitable business for Cloud Innovations, and when AFRINIC threatened to recover all IP addresses it had awarded to the company, it was immediately sued in Mauritius, where AFRINIC is based. Although AFRINIC subsequently reversed its decision to remove the IP addresses which Cloud Innovation had purchased, the company continued to take legal action against AFRINIC. The result is a crisis that threatens the viability of one of the Internet’s regional registries.

AFRINIC was the last RIR to be created and came late to the Internet party. It has only ever held about 2% of the IPv4 address space. Compare that to the 40% that was distributed directly to organizations (mostly in North America) prior to the existence of RIRs; the 17% in Asia-Pacific; the 14% in Europe and North America, and the 3.5% in Latin America.

Alastair Tempest

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