New Accelerate Cape Town CEO shares vision for Cape Town at AGM

“For Cape Town to realise its vision of become Africa’s global city, the role of business needs to extend beyond the boardroom by ensuring a sustainable business environment that is resilient to the challenges of the day,” says Chris Whelan, the new CEO of Accelerate Cape Town, the business think-tank and catalyst that brings together key stakeholders in the Cape Town city region to develop and implement a long-term vision for sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

Whelan was speaking at the organisation’s annual general meeting today where Accelerate Cape Town’s 49 members, consisting of the largest corporates headquartered in the Western Province, gathered to hear about the successes of the past year and what is planned for the organisation for the next twelve months.

Four key focus areas

Whelan, who took over from former CEO Guy Lundy at the beginning of July this year, has hinged the organisation’s vision for Cape Town on four key focus areas: Connectedness, both physical and virtual; Enterprise Development, aimed at growing the number of economically active South Africans; Talent, particularly attracting and retaining black talent in the city; and Telling the African Story, especially as it relates to attracting business to the continent.

“The four key focus areas for Accelerate Cape Town are not a deviation from what the organisation has been doing to date, but are rather aimed at building on the success achieved under the stewardship of my predecessor, Guy Lundy. We are confident that we will continue to play a key role as facilitator between big business and government in the city, and make a vital contribution to establishing Cape Town as Africa’s global city, a city of inspiration and innovation,” explains Whelan.

The NDP and what it means to Cape Town and South Africa

Joining Whelan at the AGM was guest speaker Bobby Godsell, former CEO of Anglogold Ashanti and current member of the National Planning Commission, who shared some insights into the National Development Plan that was recently presented to members of Parliament. Godsell says that one of the most important aspects to the future success of South Africa is to have an active and engaged citizenry. “While the NDP highlights nine key areas that need to be addressed to ensure our success as a country, it is critical that South Africans from all walks of life become actively engaged in our democracy and so help build a country that provides opportunities for inclusive growth to all. People should not wait for government to implement this plan – instead, every South African citizen should get involved and work together with business and government to create the country we all want to live in.”

Whelan adds that the nine key challenges set out by the NDP are not news to the business sector. “However, the success of the NDP hinges on its execution. It is here that I believe business has the capability to assist, and I see Accelerate Cape Town playing a key role as a facilitator between business and government in the Cape Town city region.”

Realising the vision

As part of Accelerate Cape Town’s efforts to attract and retain black talent, the organisation hosts regular Inspiration Sessions where successful black professionals share their experiences and learnings to young professionals, who are also given an opportunity to network with each other. The next Inspiration Session will take place at One&Only Cape Town on 6 September, and will feature Nomfundo Walaza, CEO of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre as guest speaker.

Tying into the theme of Connectedness, Accelerate Cape Town, through its initiative Connect’d Cape Town, will host Singapore businessman, and previous head of the Singapore Economic Development Board Teo Ming Kian from 13-20 September. Ming Kian will be meeting with top Cape Town businesspeople, politicians and other stakeholders as part of Singapore Week, aimed at establishing and improving business relations between the two cities

The AGM was held at the Clocktower at the V&A Waterfront, and was sponsored by Accelerate Cape Town member companies Nedbank, Old Mutual and Distell.

For more information about Accelerate Cape Town, please visit