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Genetic mapping of key species protects value

Dagmar Honsbein, General Manager: Agra Professional Services Division (middle) with Dr Gladys Kahaka and Dr Erold Naomab, holding the GeneChip.

Dagmar Honsbein, General Manager: Agra Professional Services Division (middle) with Dr Gladys Kahaka and Dr Erold Naomab, holding the GeneChip.

Two experts in genetics say genetic mapping of domesticated species as well as certain species of game, is essential to protect their value in future markets. Dr Erold Naomab and Dr Gladys Kahaka told a meeting of people involved in agriculture, species need market protection similar to patent rights.
Agra Professional Services Division last week hosted an interactive breakfast to discuss and investigate the potential of genetic mapping of local animal species. Under the theme; “The Value of genetic mapping of Namibian species,” Dr Naomab explained the principles of genetics, gene mapping, the value of mapping the genome of a species and the possibilities that arise from that, i.e. the theoretical possibilities of manipulating the genome of an animal to improve production and economic benefits.
The value of gene mapping in the protection of Intellectual Property in biology was underlined during Dr Naomab’s presentation and the ensuing discussion. Furthermore, through mapping the genome of a species, genes that control specific traits, are identified, opening up the possibility of improving the species’ value by manipulating these genes.
Dr Naomab also presented the genetic mapping of Namibian livestock species (e.g. using sheep or cattle) which has been made possible through Affymetrix GeneChip technology locally. In explaining these chips to the audience, he said; “every chip holds the entire genomic code of a species. The genomic code of Namibian sheep is so vast that it could, if written out, cover about 100,000 A4 pages with pure code. The chip is 1.7cm2 and can store more than 5 GB, or 3 million pieces of biochemical test information about a species.”
Agra’s Professional Services Division, as part of their research efforts in the Swakara industry, has looked into the opportunities that GeneChip technology offers. The GM of Agra Professional Services Division, Mrs Dagmar Honsbein, said: “the genetic mapping of Swakara, would be the first step in a process to register the breed as uniquely Namibian. We need to prove however, that Swakara has genetically evolved extensively over more than 100 years; away from the original species of Karakul making it a de facto different sheep altogether.” She said, “this will allow us to protect them from being claimed by other countries as their own, as has happened with the Boran cattle breed and Acacia plant species that have been officially declared indigenous to Australia. Also, by claiming commercially or economically valuable species as uniquely Namibian one creates a possible niche product (‘Proudly Namibian’) with a higher trading value and thus income for the producers.”
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Namibia has the capacity to genetically map species, with the aim to understand the genetic sequences of the species that have adapted to the Namibian environment and to explore which gene is responsible for the expression of which trait. The next step in the research being conducted at UNAM is to identify those genes that express traits that are of economic advantage and to possibly find a way to enhance or select for these traits. In theory it should be possible, through genetic engineering, to strip a gene that diminishes the production potential of a species or to insert a gene that is of productive advantage. To date, genetic modification is not allowed under local jurisdiction; therefore no further discussions to this end took place.

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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.