New CEO ready to build Cape Town


By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

Chris Whelan the newly appointed, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town has a great vision for the city.

ACT is a business think-tank and catalyst that aims to accelerate economic growth in the Cape Town city region through its vibrant membership of the city’s corporate leaders.

Whelan says: “If Cape Town wants to achieve the goal of becoming Africa’s global city, a city of inspiration and innovation, there must be a combined, co-ordinated effort by business, government, civil society and academia to create sustained, robust economic growth that is socially inclusive.”

He has recently taken over the reins of the organisation from former CEO Guy Lundy, who stepped down at the end of June after five years at the helm. Whelan was appointed after an extensive recruitment process by the Accelerate Cape Town Board, which consists of high-ranking leaders from the organisation’s member companies, 48 of Cape Town’s largest corporates.

Whelan, an experienced and qualified futurist and business strategist, earned a Master’s Degree (Cum Laude) from the University of Stellenbosch Business School.
For the past two years, he has been based in Sydney, most recently as the Chief Knowledge Officer of Ernst & Young’s Asia-Pacific operations.

“My experience working in various countries in Africa, Europe and Asia-Pacific has given me important insights into the challenges Cape Town currently faces, as well as the excellent opportunities open to us,” explains Whelan.

“Guy and I share the perspective that the economic well-being of the Cape Town city region is linked to all players being engaged to meet the challenges and leverage the unique competitive advantages and opportunities we have. The Accelerate Cape Town team have created a solid platform for future growth and I look forward to furthering that,” said Whelan in reflecting on the role for long-term vision and collaboration in growing the city region’s economy.

Whelan embarked on a series of introductory meetings with former CEO Guy Lundy, and met Accelerate Cape Town’s various stakeholders, including current and potential members, government, academia and civil society.

The aim was to introduce Whelan, and for him to gain a better understanding of the perspectives of the stakeholder group.

“We wrapped up this initial series on 18 July with an event where we had all the key Accelerate Cape Town stakeholders and role players attending. I am now taking the input from our initial conversations and working with the team to develop a plan that will articulate my vision for the organisation for the next 12 to 36 months. This vision will be shared at our Annual General Meeting on 30 August,” adds Whelan.

Prompted about revealing his initial thoughts on where he’d like to take Accelerate Cape Town over the next few years, Whelan says he has always believed in the power of relationships as the foundation for any significant change.

In conclusion Whelan says: “My focus for the moment is in establishing and developing those relationships with our members, as well as stakeholders in government, academia and civil society. Out of that will flow the growth and impact we wish to see in the city – more jobs founded on robust, sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

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