Stephan Malherbe founded Genesis Analytics in February 1998 with a staff of two in a 59-square-metre office in the Johannesburg suburb of Blairgowrie. The firm was the first specialist microeconomics consultancy in South Africa; microeconomics being the study of product, labour and capital markets.
The word “genesis” is derived from the ancient Greek word, which means to be born. Despite the strong biblical associations today, the word entered the English language only in the 17th century via Latin. Stephan called the firm Genesis because it was founded at a time of two beginnings: a rebirth for South Africa - just four years into democracy - and a new phase of growth for Africa. The hope was that the firm, small as it was, would be able to apply economic logic and would therefore be a catalyst for further growth and expansion in the region.
In May 2023 more than 230 Genesis colleagues gathered in Joburg to celebrate our 25th annivesary. Much has changed over the years but the gathering was an opportunity to get to know each other in a hybrid working world and highlight our values and purpose as a firm. Read more: Genesis turns 25 in a changing world
2018 was a big year for Genesis Analytics. We had been in business for 20 years and seen the firm grow in size, practice areas and geography. For us it was not a year of looking back but at what the next 20 years will look like. Africa is expected to grow by over one billion people in the next 20 years. This increase will be greatest among those aged between 15 and 24, cementing Africa’s place as the youngest continent in the world. Our 20th year celebration
Making a positive impact
From the start, Genesis was an avowedly for-profit firm with the purpose of making a positive impact in Africa. The idea was to use the disciplines of a business and an ability to reinvest earnings in order to work effectively in areas that have traditionally been the preserve of government or non-profit organisations.
Due to a combination of skills and circumstance, the firm’s work from the beginning has tended to be where the state meets the market and to this day state/market interface remains an important focus. Our earliest projects included developing strategies to increase investment, designing policy for a financial centre in Africa, and undertaking detailed work on a competition policy regime for South Africa. An important early project involved drafting a key report for the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) on the causes and implications of the 1998 emerging-market financial crisis.
Work in public and private sectors
Another early feature was a roster of clients split fairly equally between the public and private sectors. This is still the case today, and is embodied in our methodology of using the same teams for both public and private work. We believe that understanding the one sector enables Genesis to better advise the other. While this approach has proven to be beneficial for both corporate and government clients, it has also necessitated absolute clarity and consistency on ethics and conflicts of interest. This, too, has become a cornerstone of our ongoing approach.
Stephan was joined by banking and financial specialist Richard Ketley in 2003 and industrial organisation and trade specialist James Hodge in 2005. Their arrival led to the launch of our financial services strategy, and competition and regulatory practice areas. Another prominent early director, who joined in 2002, was Hennie Bester. He built up the firm’s capabilities in financial inclusion and is today a prominent independent consultant in financial inclusion and development strategy.
Within six years, Genesis had become the largest firm of its kind in the region, which it remains to this day. Its growth reflected the versatility of economic tools for understanding commercial, societal and political dynamics.
With its roots still firmly in Africa, Genesis has rapidly internationalised in recent years. The firm is intent on building a cadre of African professional expertise that matches and exceeds international benchmarks of quality. In 2018 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the firm.
Educational fund for black economists
We are also proud of our South African roots. We have been a direct beneficiary of South Africa’s democratisation and of the historic compact that accompanied it. More than a decade ago, we therefore donated a 20% ownership stake in our South African operation (then the only one) to a purpose-created foundation in order to fund the education of black South African economists. Including current students, the foundation has funded graduate studies for more than 30 specialists in the field. Alumni of this programme have filled senior positions in the National Treasury, the Reserve Bank and the Competition Commission, among others. Many alumni have also worked for Genesis, or continue to work for it, on a number of different teams.
Although Genesis is no longer solely an economics firm, we still employ many economists and work extensively in the area. Our economics roots have therefore formed our identity. Clarity of thought, analytical rigour, an evidence-driven approach, a thirst for getting to the truth of the matter: these parts of our DNA come from our grounding in economics.
The firm, which is still jointly owned by the founding partners and the foundation, has grown to include 14 partners and more than 150 full-time consultants.
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