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Zimbabwe in top 5 on Africa’s DNS success list

silhouette of men on mobile phones

Zimbabwe is in the top 5 of the “Country DNS Success Index” list released by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  

The list is in a draft report released by the global organisation in March. ICANN is the organisation in charge of coordinating the operations of the Internet’s underlying address book, called the Domain Name System (DNS).

Zimbabwe is number 5 on the index, coming behind South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Tunisia in that order. The draft report is a 2016 study of the African DNS market done to identify strengths and weaknesses in the DNS industry ecosystem so that hopefully opportunities for advancing the industry are found.

The Country DNS Success Index considered the following things:

  • The ease of paying for a domain locally, including availability of payment gateways that make this possible
  • The cost of the domains
  • The number of local & international domains in the country
  • The number of webpages in a country that are indexed by Google
  • The number of companies that register domains (called domain registrars)
  • How many of the country’s websites are hosted locally
  • Internet Exchanges Points in the country, and
  • Internet penetration

54 countries in total were ranked.

Zimbabwe scored high as one of a handful of countries on the continent that contributed to 75% of the 400 million webpages indexed by Google. It particularly scored well where the wealth of a country (Gross National Income per capita) is considered. South Africa and Zimbabwe stand out as the countries with the largest web presence. See chart below:

Zimbabwe also has domains that are relatively cheap when compared to the rest of Africa.

In addition, Zimbabweans can buy domains online thanks to efforts of startups such as (a domain registrar) and the now defunct Pay4App which pioneered online payments using mobile money in Zimbabwe.

Low local website hosting in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe however scores badly when it comes to hosting locally, evidence to a potentially large untapped opportunity for hosting services in the country.

According to the report, of the 7,367 Zimbabwean websites using local domains, only 27% of them are hosted locally (1,964) with the rest hosted outside Zimbabwe. But even then, it’d be better if we used services in a neighbouring country like South Africa. We don’t. Some 4,892 are hosted overseas mostly in the US, the UK, Germany and other countries. Only 511 websites using Zimbabwean domains are hosted in South Africa.

Zimbabwe also apparently has the problem of domains that are registered but not being used. The report says of the country’s 24,479 domains registered, only 30% are being used for websites.

Who needs a website in the age of WhatsApp?

The question of the relevance of a website in a country where the majority of internet users are chatting away and sharing content on WhatsApp inevitably has to be asked.

Even though websites are relevant globally (well, the mobile version of them at least), on the ground in Zimbabwe, internet users buy their internet in app specific bundles. A $5 WhatsApp bundle for example will only give the user access to that one app. What use is a website in targeting such a user?

It makes sense therefore that some companies and internet entrepreneurs that had registered domains, eventually abandoned the whole idea of a website opting to just go where the users are.


All this aside, the African DNS market report by ICANN is a goody study for anyone interested in understanding DNS stuff better, so I recommend that you go through it. You can download it here.

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11 thoughts on “Zimbabwe in top 5 on Africa’s DNS success list

  1. Its funny that it ranks so highly regarding domains considering that ZISPA still handles domains in a very manual method for registration and other updates like name server changes….

    We really need to overhaul domain registration and management processes such that one person isn’t the (un?)objective arbiter of domain registrations and management updates. i mean what happens if that guy (to use the proverbial) “gets hit by a bus?”

      1. yeah but there is a certain lack of transparency to the whole affair – i’ve only ever heard from one guy in my 3+ years of having some form of involvement with domains

        1. We speak with one voice –
          I would not call you only dealing with that one voice a lack of Transparency though

  2. This is a very good report. thank you. I also want to address your point that “many domains that are registered but not being used” From my experience I think this is because some domains are registered for email purposes and not for a website.

    1. Thanks. Didn’t realise there is a significant number of email only domains in Zimbabwe. Why don’t those companies want to be found on Google? Or they have separate domain for web presence?

  3. Its a combination of content provision and user education. Very few people are actively developing content locally that would draw in users. Also people think that WhatsApp is the internet. With that in mind, it is difficult for people to accept and use websites which in my view is a very sad scenario. Unfortunately the vanguards of the internet are concerned with making profits than anything else.

  4. I remember the days when the masses thought facebook was the internet, these days its whatsapp. websites will still be relevant

  5. Web hosting in Zimbawe is expensive yet hardware and bandwidth costs have come down over the years. I used to host with YoAfrica then realised that from 2012 to last year (when I moved) the costs of hosting hadn’t gone down a single cent. The hosting package was the same with no new features, one domain, one MySQL database with capped storage space. For the same cost I pay for my outside hosting (for 2 years) with up to 6 domains, unlimited MySQL databases and unlimited storage space.

    With regards to “unused” domains. If 30% of the domains are used for websites, it doesn’t mean the other 70% are unused. Some domains are used strictly for email, especially for companies that do not want/need a web presence.

  6. My interest is in the metric you list as “internet penetration”. How does Zimbabwe rank on this aspect?
    If the 5m plus Zimbabwean WhatsApp faithfuls’ demographics are decomposed, it becomes easier for one with a business idea on how to position their service or product offering. For some people, the closest they will ever get to the internet is WhatsApp (which is sad).
    Mobile phones are ubiquitous, hence the large number of WhatsApp users, but not every business restricts themselves to mobile devices because earnings, spending power, loyalty, specialization and even usage/online presence metrics etc for this segment have not been sensibly broken down to be used as a potential targeted market segment.
    For some professionals, WhatsApp can at times be a very unproductive and disruptive nuisance but for others, it’s heaven on earth – usually defined by a balance between availability vs content. To illustrate my point, if an application is developed for mobile convenience it is hardly going to have the equivalent full functionality of the “native” internet application but a trimmed-down version due to hardware, interface and processor limitations. Most established businesses are on this model.
    Start-ups on the other hand, can work straight to make their mobile product/service the “native” application, I don’t know how scaling upwards can be then achieved in such a scenario. Scaling down seems easier to implement.
    If you sell tomatoes, you lose nothing (almost) by targeting everyone. But if you sell high end wireless fidelity audio systems you need to target a specific audience.

    Did this survey look at static vs dynamic web content? I suspect a good number of Zimbabwean websites constitute the former.

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