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Diversity, innovation, and tenacity

WESGRO’s new Chief Trade and Investment officer, Garth Van Der Horst encapsulates his role as to further Wesgro’s mandate of attracting investors to the Western Cape and Cape Town and to support and grow exports from our province.

With a background in the oil industry and work experience in more than fifty countries, he brings a plethora of knowledge to nurture Wesgro’s local, and foreign investment and export objectives.

Van Der Horst grew up in Cape Town and completed matric at Livingstone High School in Claremont, one of the top ten feeder schools for UCT. “I got a head start there by being exposed to many great educators and won a Shell Scholarship in my last year to do a post-matric course at Hilton College, KZN – then followed by a university degree at UCT,” he recalls. There Van Der Horst signed up for a B.Soc.Sc degree where he studied economics, industrial psychology, and industrial sociology for three years. 

His degree equipped him for a position in Shell’s HR department, thereafter he was posted to an upstream oil company run by Shell in the Netherlands. Four years later he returned to Cape Town and while working, started an MBA at Stellenbosch. “During that year I switched from HR to marketing at Shell, a big move that set me on track to face the many challenging new roles ahead of me,” he says.

At Shell Africa, his team members were based in Cairo, Tunis, Casablanca, Dakar, Abidjan, Nairobi and elsewhere. “From a business development point of view, I learned that adapting to different nationalities’ strengths and weaknesses was critical to operational and entrepreneurial success. It’s always an advantage and ought to be one of all leaders’ objectives,” he explained.

Being a player in 30 African and 24 European countries confirms Van der Horst flexibility which he says has always paid dividends.

He says that a key component of his success is his parents’ teachings of a solid work ethic. “They told me repeatedly that there weren’t going to be any handouts in life.” He echoes Elon Musk’s statement: ‘The biggest mistake people make, whether it’s in work or in life, is wishful thinking.’

“If you daydream about something it will not magically happen,” he says. “You must be prepared to work at it and accept you may fail. I have failed a few times with entrepreneurial ventures and all manner of projects however you can only learn perseverance and resilience through effort and the courage to get through the hard times.

“Failure also teaches you about your abilities and what others think of you. I strive to cultivate a good rapport with my team so treating people fairly is critical.” 

As a natural consequence of growing his diverse network of friends and contacts he has landed prestigious work opportunities. 

“I wanted to become a good businessman who has a good feel for the whole value chain, to learn different parts of the business and to have the courage to try something completely new as often as possible. I really enjoy a big challenge,” he concluded.

With such an asset on board, Wesgro’s mission of growing the Western Cape economy just got a real shot in the arm!

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