Interview with UCT alumnus Garreth Bloor

16 Apr 2024
Garreth Bloor
16 Apr 2024

Samantha Mandigora, Regional Director for UCT Canada (UCT C) interviews fellow UCT Alumnus Garreth Bloor (GB), to learn more about him and his journey to success. Garreth was instrumental in settling Sam into her role as regional director for UCT Canada and building her network in Toronto and Canada, through the Canada-Africa Chamber of Business. 

UCT Canada was a member of the Chamber between 2022 and 2023, and through this membership, they were able to host a joint networking event in October 2023. Further, UCT Canada Alumni were able to leverage the membership to access high level events hosted by the Chamber, providing them with an opportunity to expand their own professional networks.

Garreth Bloor, who was born in Cape Town (1987), graduated from UCT with a BSocSci in 2008 and with a BA Hons in 2009. 
UCT C: What are the memories that stand out from your time at UCT?

GB: The enormous number of opportunities to be involved beyond my studies, especially with the Student Representative Council. I had the privilege of serving as Vice President (Internal) in 2007/8, following my first-year writing for Varsity News – which included spending a few months in my second year as Deputy News Editor
UCT C: What was your first role after your graduated from UCT and your career path after that? What do you do now?

GB:  I worked in media as a writer for various publications on a freelance basis, before serving a term in municipal government in the City of Cape Town. My focus was on economics and business as a writer, which carried over to my work as a city councillor, where I chaired the portfolio committee focused on economic development, before going on to serve as the Mayoral Committee Member. On relocating to Canada, I carried on the theme of economic development on taking up the post of President at The Canada-Africa Chamber of Business, a position I currently hold.
UCT C: Do you believe UCT Canada can create synergies between Canada and African institutes and if so, how?

GB: Definitely. UCT can serve as a source of knowledge on key Pan-African objectives, like advancing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), to which Canada was a trusted third party and partner in the development of the free trade agreement. At the same time, the University can play an important role for Canadian counterparts seeking partnerships across the continent.
UCT C: When and why did you move to Canada and what has your experience been with settling in and finding a community in Toronto? 

GB: I moved to Canada in May of 2018, settling in my wife’s home city of Toronto. We met in South Africa where she studied at UCT, after commpleting her undergraduate studies in Canada. With her friends and family primarily in Toronto, I was very fortunate to have a warm and welcoming home in Canada. However, UCT also plugged me into a group of South African arrivals who meet monthly in Toronto. Before long, I had newfound lifelong friends. Over the past five years we’ve shared the joy of starting our families and other milestones, while bound by our common connections to (and love of) South Africa and the continent.
UCT C: How did you come to learn of UCT Canada and the alumni network?

GB:  On my second day in Canada, I received a call on my brand-new Canadian number. I had just updated my UCT contact details that same day, I had a friendly voice on the other end welcoming me to Canada. That was Di Stafford, the predecessor to Samantha Mandigora. It was one of the most unexpected and memorable calls I have ever had. Since then, I’ve been privileged to participate in alumni events in Toronto, including the most recent event under the leadership of Samantha, which was a fantastic success.
UCT C: How was the brand of UCT, the network, the knowledge gained from UCT instrumental to your personal and professional journey?

GB: The brand is well-regarded globally and I believe that is a great benefit to graduates. The UCT alumni network has helped foster an ever-deeper love and appreciation of UCT, particularly since I’ve been based in Canada.

With the knowledge gained from my studies, an invaluable benefit has been the ability to gain a wide view of the world from wonderful faculty members, tutors and fellow students. I pursued the Humanities as a foundation for my life, where it was frequently observed that education is ‘’not what to think, but how to think’’. UCT’s educational opportunities, outside of named degree programs, have been particularly valuable too. I’ve been able to take advantage of courses in the Department of Engineering and the Built Environment as well as the Graduate School of Business, while working at the same time.
GB: People know UCT, especially fellow alums who seem to be everywhere. With each passing year in Canada, I meet more people with UCT connections, many of whom have had a significant impact in Canada. The brand is thus strong and well regarded by all who know UCT. The networks around the globe are significant and I personally think it is important to both embrace and foster those networks, for the benefit of all – sharing and collaborating wherever possible.
UCT C: What is a challenge you faced or observed while at UCT that you believe is still challenging for current students? How do you believe it can be resolved?

GB: The transition from high school to university can often be challenging, particularly when you are the first person in your family to attend a post-secondary institution. I think that resources to support students with this transition is key to their long-term success.
UCT C: What is the change you hope to see or contribute towards for UCT as part of Vision 2030?

GB: Promoting UCT for Canadian students, including for children of UCT alumni and all with (or seeking) connections to the continent, who live in Canada. I now have a son, my first born in Canada. I believe a UCT education, or at least some time at UCT would be fantastic. Encouraging academics, civil society, and the private and public sectors to engage the university is also important. There are pockets of Africa-focused research and scholarship across Canada, which is an opportunity for UCT to deepen its reach in pursuit of Vision 2030.
UCT C: What encouraged you to give to UCT and why do believe this is important?

GB: The university experience carries enormous benefits that are ongoing for life, from skills to networks. So much of university life, including those who received scholarship or funding support, is made possible because of others.  This was the case for my Honours degree. While major benefactors are vital, it is not always only one big benefactor who makes the difference. Often small contributions from many – regardless of their stage of life - all adds up to make it possible.
UCT C: Any words you would like to impart to newbies, current students, or recent graduates?

GB: Your university experience does not end with graduation. Keep in mind the long view and take every opportunity you can, knowing your university experience can go far beyond graduation. I would encourage recent graduates to stay connected and getting involved. The immense power of many of UCT’s global peers is in their networks, both as a source of personal professional development for individuals and a way of contributing the university wherever possible. It is a power we have as UCT to be a force for good.
UCT C: How can alumni, young and seasoned connect with you?