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A new digital Esperanto. It can either tie us together or make us enemies for life

A new digital Esperanto. It can either tie us together or make us enemies for life

Ebonics, the beautiful bastard tongue of the inner city, travels through satellite music videos and streaming media. Mobile phones and SMS are spreading a terse word form in which numerals replace the sounds formed by letters.

Once upon a time, there was a universal language. Everyone could understand each other, and apparently there was no word for ‘impossible’. Humanity got together, talked a bit and came up with a bright idea. “Let’s get into vertical real estate, and make a bundle in condos.”

The result was the tower of Babel. The rest is history. God confused their tongues. The architect couldn’t understand the quantity surveyor who had major communication difficulties with the foreman, and so on. Naturally the project came to a halt. Such is the power of God, and such is the power of language.

And strangely enough, to this day, even if every soul on a building site speaks the same language, they still can’t agree, and everyone else has extreme difficulty making sense of things. Even numbers, the one physical constant, seem to cease making sense when real estate is involved.

Language is something that binds us into groups and also divides us. Concepts require not just words but the nuances that words convey to be fully understood. Without language, all but the most basic concepts, such as ‘fire causes pain, hence avoid pain by avoiding fire’, cease to exist. Between different languages, everything is open to interpretation: consider the sticky differences of opinion that are regularly swept under the global carpet by veto at the United Nations.

But the story of the tower of Babel seems to be gaining renewed relevance as we progress into the realms of technology. The interesting thing from a cultural-anthropological viewpoint is that, when the tower of Babel was on the drawing board, there was very little dispersion of humanity.

Apparently vast empires were actually separated by a few miles. Being a king probably meant having control of a bunch of villages, one or two small towns and a couple of dissenting goats. The physical distances between population groupings weren’t all that great. Long distance communication probably entailed shouting to someone on the other side of a river or grabbing a spear and walking a couple of kilometres to settle the question of a missing cow. These conditions were perfect for uniformity of language, to some or other degree.

History seems to be repeating itself, even as we speak. Pick up a mobile phone or log onto the net, and you can speak to anyone, anywhere. In fact, the only real obstacles to global communication are language and the justifiable monosyllabic reticence of someone who receives a post-midnight call from a drunken acquaintance a couple of time zones away.

As far as language is concerned, its spread is becoming more rapid. Ebonics, the beautiful bastard tongue of the inner city, travels through satellite music videos and streaming media. Mobile phones and SMS are spreading a terse word form in which numerals replace the sounds formed by letters.

And as we grow closer and closer together, the indications are that a polyglot language will emerge combining useful words that are as easily picked up and disposed of as any fashion item or plastic gimmick, but on a global scale.

The new language won’t be English, Cantonese, French, Arabic or Spanish. It will be all of these, and then some. The words and concepts will be global; your reliance upon them will be determined by the distance over which you communicate.

So should the Big Guy start smiting the comsats, server farms and microwave towers. He probably won’t have to: in spite of all the translators, arbitrators, diplomats, emissaries and new-age therapists, we still have major difficulties understanding one another.

On the other hand, somewhere in Africa, there is small tribe that has no word for anger. Instead they use words that translate to ‘insane’, or ‘sick’. For sure, they live a peaceful existence and are not as frustrated as conventional wisdom would suggest.

Sooner or later all this communication will reach them, and they will begin to learn the language and adopt the concepts. Perhaps then we should start scanning the skies for lightning bolts.


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.