[Ａ Ｃｈｉｎｅｓｅ Ｃｈｉｅｆ ｉｎ Ａｆｒｉｃａ]Chinese in Paris
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The Golden Gate Group of Com-panies is an integrated conglom-erate active in many industriessuch as food and beverage, tourism, con-struction, decoration, arcbitectural mate-rial production, machinery processing,international trade, and furniture. It cur-rently owns more than ten subsidiaries,including the Golden Gate Paradise Res-taurant, Its assets total more than US$100 million, and its workforce numbers30,000 strong, including approximately150 Chinese managers and technicians.
Some of the Group"s controlled sub-sidiaries include Golden Swan Nig. Ltd.,Golden Ever Industries Ltd., Golden Ea-gle Industries Nigeria Ltd, Golden ForestInt"l Nig. Ltd, Golden Triumph Nig. Ltd.,Nigeria Golden Dragon Machinery Cor-poration, Golden Sail Wood CFTZ. Thegroup has also independently establishedthe Millennium Inn, the Golden GateHotel (Abuja), and Golden Arts Decora-tion Nig. Ltd. And in partnership withlocal merchants, the Group has set upGolden Mine Nig. Ltd. and the Six Con-tinents Travel Agency.
Mr. Jacob Wood, Chairman of theGolden Gate Group, is not only a Chi-nese entrepreneur in Nigeria, but also aspecial economic advisor to the NigerianPresident andthee first and (atpresent) onlyChinese Chiefin African his-tory. He wasthe only Chi-nese memberof the Nigeriandelegation thatattended theChina-AfricaCooperationSummit in Bei-jing, adding tohis significancein the historyof Nigeria.
From Bags to Riches
"My family is originally fromShanghai, and my father previously didbusiness in Hong Kong. It is said thatpeople from Shanghai are always daringand bold wherever they may be. Whatmy father and l have done in our livesis reflective of this proverb." In 1972,Mr. Wood was part of the first batch ofworker-peasant-soldier students whenhe was in his twenties. He had a strongdesire to go to Africa ever since he wasyoung. This desire can be attributed tohis father, who went to Nigeria via HongKong in the 1950s. And it only grewstronger when his father later becamea successful textile merchant in Africa.After the Cultural Revolution, the Chi-nese government passed new policiesthat permitted the children of famedoverseas Chinese to go abroad and in-herit their family"s business, and as aresult, Mr. Wood would become one ofthe first Chinese citizens to go abroadsince the formation of the New China.
His father had already laid a solidfoundation for him, particularly in thedevelopment of personal relationships.The friends of his lather included quite anumber of top officials in the many min-istries of Nigeria, including the Ministryof National Defense, the Ministry ofForeign Affairs, and even the Presidenthimself. As a merchant, Mr. Wood mayhave enjoyed more advantages than otheroverseas Chinese, but he has not beendependent on the "shelter" built by hisfather.
When he first arrived in Nigeria in 1978 he didn"t become a textile merchantlike his father, instead he went to theUniversity of Toronto, Canada and stud-ied hotel management. After four years,he had finished his studies and returnedto Nigeria where he decided to embarkon a career in the hotel business. He soonfound a job at the Shangri-La Hotel inLagos (a business hub in Nigeria) thatwas founded by Doctor Hammer.
"Doctor Hammer is a legendary per-son. He was the only person to have metLenin that was still alive at that time, hewas the first to fly over the Great Wallin a hot-air balloon, and was the formerhead of Occidental Petroleum Corp."Thanks to his hard work and intelligence,Mr. Wood was promoted to the positionof general manager of the hotel five yearslater. After that, he was given some stockoptions in the hotel, what he refers to ashis "first bucket of gold".
"A combination of British men andChinese-Americans served the hotel asmanaging directors, so when I was work-ing at the hotel we received many celeb-rities, like the father of the US President,Prince Chades of the UK, and the BritishPrime Minister. I think that nay thoughtshave always been international in scope?"Mr. Wood stresses that his experienceshave had a great impact on his businessideas. "They once asked me who was toblame if you put a US$I00 bill on thetable and an attendant stole it. I answeredthat it was the fault of the attendant. Theytold me that I was to blame because I wasthe one luring him to the bill. The ap-proach to business differs greatly betweenthe East and West, and I"ve benefited a lotfrom learning both."
Later, Mr. Wood gained a largerstake in the Shangri-La Hotel, and finallybecame its controlling shareholder. In themid-1990s when Nigeria was put undereconomic sanctions by Western coun-tries, many merchants didn"t think muchof the prospects and began to leave theNigerian market. In contrast, Mr. Woodinvested US$ 8 million and built his ownhotel, the Golden Gate Paradise Hotel, inLagos the former capital of Nigeria. Thesix-storey hotel covers an area of morethan 4,000 square meters and is deco-rated with granite stonework; it is one ofthe most luxurious hotels in Africa.
"I am devoted more to the develop-ment of culture than I am to this hotel.I want to make China and its culturewell-known among Africans, and spreadChinese culture across the Africancontinent." With a pair of white marblelions at the gate and granite decorationson the exterior of the hotel, there arestill beautiful clolsonne, three-coloredTang art works, as well as ancient Chi-nese artifacts to be found inside Allthese fill the hotel with the mystery ofthe Orient, and help make it a uniquepart of the local landscape as well as ascenic spot for travelers. Mr. Wood hasmade the Chinese dishes available at thehotel more luxurious than the westerndishes. In addition to Chinese food andbeverages, the hotel often holds Chineseculture exhibitions, which have becomean important platform for the spread ofChinese culture. October 1 is NationalDay in both China and Nigeria so on thatday the hotel usually has a dual-nationalcelebration.
The Title of Chlef
Today, Mr. Wood has extended hisbusiness reach to include a total of eightindustries, such as construction, textiles,and hotel management. As the scope ofhis business expanded, he founded theGolden Gate Group. But besides his busi-ness work, he has "also assisted in the con-struction of four schools in Nigeria.