The roots of GeoAfrika go back to the 1980s when the founders, the late John Manning and Peter Hoffmann formed a partnership and started a surveying company, Manning, Hoffmann and Partners (MHP). P eter, the CEO of the company, says as surveyors, they soon realised the need to network with other professionals.
GeoAfrika was founded in 1998 as an association of leading independent businesses, all providing specialised technical expertise that primarily operated in the built environment. These businesses consisted of a surveying company, MHP Geomatics, a specialised law firm, HSG, geographical information systems providers, MHP Geospace and a property management company, Thistledown. The associated companies could network effectively, and all they shared a similar vision for the industry. They developed mutual trust and all benefitted from being able to utilise the skills of reliable partners. The companies were all successful individually and as a collective. The group became the biggest in the survey field on the African continent. With the landscape around the group changing and the different businesses becoming increasingly closely linked, however, the decision was taken in late 2018 to consolidate under united brand, to integrate services and resources, become more efficient overall and to better serve the market.
As a result, the four different businesses became divisions under the overarching GeoAfrika brand, with a consistent brand identity. MHP Geomatics became GeoAfrika Surveys, MHP Geospace became GeoAfrika Technologies and Thistledown became GeoAfrika Property Management. HSG remains both part of the group and an independent legal practice. Peter says if the relationship could described in human terms, it would be that “the companies were first dating, then they became engaged and finally married when the GeoAfrika name was adopted.”
Special leadership has to be provided in a group mostly consisting of highly qualified and skilled professionals, many of them considered leading experts in their Over time a more structured leadership model been needed and developed, and better support development structures created. Young professionals expert guidance from professionals who are experienced in the field.
Planning and co-ordination ensures that a job or project can continue in someone’s absence. Succession plans, also at leadership level, are in place to ensure that GeoAfrika can continue successfully into the future. Because of the diversity of the people in the business the representation of all groups is needed for sustainability. Tokenism does however not have any place in the group.
GeoAfrika has provided bursaries to young, black land surveying students for more than 30 years, and also offers new graduates the opportunity to complete their articles in the group. This created transformation long before it was a B-BBEE imperative, and has formed the basis for a strong, diversified professional team. Peter explains, “From the outset in the 80s, we decided to offer bursaries to young, black land surveying students, and we also create opportunities for new graduates to do articles with us. Of course, this has also helped us to build up a loyal team of good, professional surveyors.”
The company now employs more surveyors than the large SOCs and we have created an environment to retain them. This is where they have built their careers,” says Peter, “and this is where they want to be.” “This is a place where people get opportunities to grow,” Odwa Dilizo, Director and Partner, GeoAfrika Technologies and HSG, summarises very simply. GeoAfrika has a strong internal Brand DNA that acts as guidance for every action taken. The company values are:
Honesty against the tide
People fullfilling their potential
Strength through collaboration
Listening and Leading
GeoAfrika has an impressive list of clients, including Transnet, Tongaat Hulett, SANRAL, eThekwini Municipality, Eskom, Illovo, Daimler, Leisure Club, AECOM and the Department of Human Settlements, several engineering firms and developers. The relationships are mostly longterm, formed and based on delivery and trust.
GeoAfrika has become the biggest business of its kind on the African continent, the most successful by different measures. Success is however not first measured financial terms. Peter has a strong belief in the value that his profession and his company brings to South Africa. “The work we do,” he says, “has a positive impact on people, communities and the country. This is true for all aspects our work; surveying, planning or legal.” He points out they have often worked in areas where other professions haven’t always wanted to be. “Much of our work informal settlements and peri-urban areas, and where provide hope for a better situation.”
This strategic realignment has given the business whole a renewed focus. Craig Silva, Director GeoAfrika Surveys remarks, “The resources and expertise in group places it in a unique situation, making out of box, unique solutions possible.” GeoAfrika is uniquely placed to seamlessly provide a range of technical specialised from one entry point. holistic approach makes projects easier to plan, execute and complete. This will continue to offer clients significant benefits. Most importantly, GeoAfrika wants to serve community and make a difference to even more lives the future.