Interview with Aedo van der Weij from Cargill


Can you tell us about yourself and your journey to becoming Managing Director for Cargill?

My name is Aedo van der Weij and I was born in Hilversum, a city in the Netherlands. My parents moved to Belgium when I was a baby so that’s where I grew up. I have a Belgian wife and 2 daughters.  

I had my first commercial job role in the chemical sector. After 3 years I got the opportunity to gain construction material experience in Africa. Although I had no affinity with Africa, I saw an opportunity to learn and this was the start of a longer stay on the continent.

 After 7 years in Burundi and Rwanda, I joined Cargill to start a cocoa bean sourcing operation there. I moved back to Europe in 2009 where I have worked in several roles for Cargill in France, Belgium, Germany and Netherlands.

In 2019 I was asked to return to Africa and work for Cargill in Ghana. Cargill’s processing plant in Tema is currently the largest cocoa processing plant in the country. We also have a Licensed Buying Company, buying cocoa from farmers in 4 regions and 15 districts.

All operations are run by Ghanaians, I am the only expat in the company. That demonstrates the talent that is available in Ghana and the effectiveness of Cargill’s management programs.


What is an accomplishment you are most proud of?

There are a few elements that I am proud of. Specifically, here in Ghana it would be the fact that we successfully finalized an expansion project during Covid.

This project that I had initiated in my previous role managing the global cocoa access footprint, was impacted by the fact that contractors were not able to fly into Ghana to do installations.

As a workaround, we trained local contractors extensively. So, what started as a challenge became an opportunity because we now have contractors that have more knowledge and we need to fly in less technicians than before. 

I am also proud of the impact we are having on the farmer communities through the way we buy, being fully digitalized and having a  robust sustainability program. We buy with phone Apps and pay through e-money so traceability is transparent and assured all times. Before we were concerned about the possible low adoption rate by farmers, but today we can say that cocoa farmers embrace e-money.

One of our corporate Social responsibility initiatives is the construction of 6 schools (kindergartens, primary schools and junior high). We handed over 5 schools in the Western and Northern Region earlier this month of October and will inaugurate the new school in Tema early November.


What should our members know about Cargill?

Cargill has its origin in the United States and was started in 1865 (157 years old) by Mr. Cargill. At the time the business focused on connecting US grain farmers with consumer markets in the big cities and today much of the core of the business is still in connecting farmers with consumer markets. We always sell B2B and not directly to the consumer.

Our portfolio today is larger than grains, and cocoa was added to the portfolio in the 1980-ies and we have on all continents processing plants like the one in Tema, where we transform cocoa beans into liquor, powder and butter.

We are active in more than 70 countries worldwide but at the same time we are also very localized. We see ourselves as a Ghanaian company with a US mother. Our basis for long term success is the strong culture.

We have a culture that puts the people at the first place. We look at impacting our people, employees, stakeholders and leveraging that for the good. Our ethics are important too, we don’t take shortcuts even if that means that sometimes things go slow or don’t go at all .

We believe in continuous improvement and as such don’t assess things as either good or bad, but in terms of opportunities to be and do better. That culture is a strong foundation for our growth.

Our plant in Ghana is operationally very reliable and safe and is run 100% by Ghanaians.  Most of our products are exported. We are a Freezone company. We also supply our products locally. We have about 900 permanent employees (Cargill Ghana plants and Cargill Ghana Sourcing).

How has your experience with GNBCC been so far and what do you expect for the future?

As an expat coming from abroad, networking is essential and that’s the first function of GNBCC for which it is doing a very good job. Bringing people into contact across boundaries. It helped me personally when I first came to Ghana. However GNBCC also has interesting projects in the pipeline that are well linked to our priorities: like talent management, youth employment, employment (economic) opportunities. These are things we share the same passion on.


























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