AFRINIC: A Comprehensive Guide to the Regional Internet Registry of Africa
Learn more about the African Network Information Centre, where and how it operates, and how it was established.
The African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) of Africa and the Indian Ocean region. It is one of five RIRs that administer internet number resources for their respective areas.
The other four RIRs are:
- APNIC – Asia-Pacific Network Information Center for the regions of East, South and Southeast Asia, including Oceania
- ARIN – American Registry for Internet Numbers for Antarctica, the United States of America, Canada and parts of the Caribbean
- LACNIC – Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Center for the regions of Latin America, a large portion of the Caribbean islands and Mexico
- RIPE NCC – Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Center for the regions of Europe, Russia, West and Central Asia
But what does AFRINIC do? What are its main functions? We answer these and many other questions in this article. First, let’s explain what AFRINIC is.
What is AFRINIC?
The African Network Information Centre is a membership-based nonprofit organization that operates under Corporate Legal Frameworks in Mauritius. It oversees the allocation of internet number resources in the African service region. The RIR mainly focuses on the management and distribution of two types of resources:
AFRINIC areas of service
As we’ve previously mentioned, every RIR has its service region in the world. Its main role is to administer internet number resources in this region. AFRINIC’s mission is to perform this essential service to the African internet community. That includes all African countries and also the Indian Ocean region.
AFRINIC is responsible for the IP address space of the following subregions of the overarching African region:
- Northern Africa – including Algeria, Egypt and Libya
- Western Africa – including Mali, Niger and Nigeria
- Central Africa – including Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Eastern Africa – including Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania
- Southern Africa – including Angola, Namibia and South Africa
- Indian Ocean region – including Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion
The African Network Information Centre is the Regional Internet Registry of the African continent, and as such, its primary function is to govern the internet number resource space for Africa.
AFRINIC’s mission is to provide professional and efficient distribution of these resources to everyone in the African region. It also aims to do two things for the African continent:
- Support internet technology usage and development
- Strengthen internet self-governance
It’s worth mentioning that the RIR administers both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses; however, only 6% of the global pool of resources is theirs to manage. Of that, only 2% are IPv4 addresses. The other resources it usually deals with are autonomous system numbers, the unique identifiers of every autonomous system.
The Regional Internet Registry has around 2,000 members. They are primarily internet service providers (ISPs), governments, universities, data center providers, banks and anyone else in need of internet number resources in the African region.
The African Network Information Centre, like all other RIRs, gets its internet number resources from IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. It then re-allocates them to all AFRINIC members and everyone else from the African region that needs an address block or more.
Naturally, AFRINIC activities are not limited to its registry function. Still, the RIR has been striving to limit these activities or put them on hold to focus on its core operations. With no profit to speak of and an annual budget of less than $6 million, more than $4 million of which are administrative expenses, the registry must limit its services.
AFRINIC was founded in 2004 when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recognized it as a necessary regional registry, the last one to be formed.
Before this, APNIC, RIPE NCC and ARIN allocated the internet number resources to the internet users and the community of Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
AFRINIC became an official RIR in April 2005, and it quickly began a membership program. As long as they qualify, individuals and organizations can apply for this membership. However, everyone can participate because AFRINIC has an open policy development process.
AFRINIC holds Public Policy Meetings for open policy discussions two times a year. The Regional Internet Registry also participates in the organization of the Africa Internet Summit. It plans the summit with other African internet governance institutions.
The registry and how the nonprofit deals with its address space and services are governed by AFRINIC bylaws. Consequently, the AFRINIC Board of Directors is responsible for making decisions based on these bylaws.
In total, nine individuals are part of this board at any given time. Six members are elected to serve each subregion of the continent, two are elected to serve based on their competency, and the remaining member is the Chief Executive Officer.
Current AFRINIC crisis
AFRINIC is currently in a massive crisis that began in July 2021 when the organization’s bank accounts were frozen by order of the Supreme Court of Mauritius. This happened due to a dispute between AFRINIC and one of its members, Cloud Innovation.
AFRINIC confiscated more than six million IP addresses from Cloud Innovation, a controversial ISP with a China-centric business model. The company claimed that it had done nothing wrong, but the registry still required the provider to comply with its Registration Service Agreement.
Cloud Innovations later claimed it did everything it was required to do, while AFRINIC claimed it didn’t, which led to the ongoing court case.
In summation, the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC) is just one part that makes the internet community of the world function as well as it does.
Its main role involves the management and allocation of IP addresses and autonomous system numbers to its members and the African community at large. No services would cripple the community, and it wouldn’t have an organized IP address allocation process to strengthen the internet self-governance of the region.
Despite the current crisis, AFRINIC is an integral part of the crucial RIR system that powers today’s efficient and easy internet communication and the internet community as a whole.
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