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The true value of mushrooms

It’s omajova season. The giant mushrooms are back. The termites have been busy, and so have drivers dashing off to harass termite nests and chase off whatever wild animals they find eating the things.

Personally, having eaten a piece of omajova before, I have my doubts about their value as a culinary delight. I ate it with scrambled egg, and the egg had more flavor than the mushroom. I had a discussion with someone about the lack of flavor, to which she responded that it is nothing that garlic and butter can’t fix.

Uncle Iconoclast has something to say about this. It involves index linking the value of a large chunk of fungus, cultivated in compost and / or dung, to the flavor of garlic and butter. If there is a positive correlation, how come noodles are so cheap? Why don’t people squabble in the aisles of shopping stores over those things.

Let’s start with the root of the thing, the common mushroom.

Mushrooms definitely had value, when they grew wild in forests. Picture Oleg the notional flatfooted hunter, chasing after some or other fleet dear. Sooner or later, inept hunting techniques would lead notional hunter to eat something, anything.

Assuming the hunter was also challenged by squirrels, rabbits, birds and field mice, and didn’t want to eat leaves, a mushroom would be fairly useful. Given my personal experience, it would take quite a lot of them though, and most of the full feeling would probably come from the butter and garlic.

What must have also added to the value of the notional hunter’s notional mushroom was that it grew among poisonous and hallucinogenic mushrooms. Taking that a step simpler, if you didn’t fall over and die, or start seeing trees walking, the edible mushroom was a jackpot.

Let’s round up. A notional hunter, Oleg, is so inept that he has to eat potentially lethal or hallucinogenic fungus that grows in dung and / or compost. How does he get around that among his buddies? Most likely, he distracted the hunting party from their laughter by telling them how wonderful mushrooms taste, and possibly offering the poisonous or hallucinogenic ones to those who didn’t fall for his spiel.

If you repeat the same lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

On the other hand, the truth is that mushrooms are regarded as a luxury ingredient, mostly more valued for their appearance in the dish, than the flavor they impart to it. The exception to this rule is probably the hallucinatory mushroom, which is ingested, but then vomited up before trees start walking. And the poisonous ones of course.

Some mushrooms can be tasted, but those are expensive, and usually need to be rehydrated for hours before they can be added to the dish. For the rest, they serve better as carriers for the flavours of garlic, butter, the salt or herbs in the white sauce, or as décor on the pizza.

If anything proves the point that people choose mushrooms for their appearance in the dish, rather than the flavor, it is the pizza. A pizza begins with a tomato base and a mild but slightly cheese, both of which have more flavor than most mushrooms. Yet people get all excited about mushrooms on pizza, even with salami, bacon or pineapple.

This type of consumer behavior is not uncommon. There are still people out their flaunting a certain brand of very expensive mobile phone, which has more in common with a braai lighter that spoils the flavor of chops, rather than a technological miracle.

And while we are here, I have asked before what prompted someone to put a prawn in his mouth, especially given that the thing looks like the sort of insect that makes people jump for the bug spray. I’ll bet nobody would eat them if they walked around on land.

This is the wonder of economics. If you tell someone something is valuable, or rare, or luxurious, they will pay a premium for it, without thinking too hard about the actual value.

For my part, I will stick to noodles. They don’t look great on pizza, which is better decorated with salami or bacon, but they are affordable.

About The Author

Pierre Maré

Pierre Maré is a multi-awarded Namibian advertising strategist and copy writer. From 2004 to 2016 he wrote a weekly tongue-in-cheek column for the Namibia Economist, eventually amassing an impressive 590 articles over the almost 12-year period. This series of Offbeat is a digital rerun of his pieces that received the highest reader acclaim. - Ed.

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.