" I suspect this is a conflict between an independent businesswoman and a state-sponsored group."
You may have nailed it there, but it is long story. How much Sophia Bekele really toots her own horn is somewhat off-putting. However, she's been working on this for a long time and also worked for ICANN so may be a good contender. To be fair though it's important to note that the TLD will be managed by the DotConnectAfrica Trust. The other contender, South Africa’s ZA Central Registry (ZACR), has apparently received endorsement of the African Union whereas Bekele's group didn't. Here's an older, and African, article about this. Actually, the whole thing is a right mess. Wikipedia outlines the .africa history.