Perseverance is not only the persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success but it is the alias of Ms. Zoyo Zhao, a young woman of Asian descent making strides in Africa and based in Ghana.
I have interviewed a number of business people doing so many amazing things for themselves as well as their families and their workers but this was something different. Before meeting with Ms. Zhao, I looked her up on the internet and saw the amazing stuff she is into. Particularly what caught my interest was her peripatetic lifestyle.
Just to name a few: Shanghai, Macau, Hong Kong, Seoul, Bozeman, Nancy, Melbourne, Tripoli, Addis Ababa, Kabul and Abidjan are just about a few of the cities she has either lived or worked; trying to go after opportunities.
As I was ushered into the Zoyo’s office in Abelemkpe, a quiet neighbourhood in Accra, I eagerly looked forward to meeting her. Much as it was my work to meet people and have a chat with them and publish it, it is always fun meeting people that have a lot you can also glean from.
I sat in her conference room with her sidekick who kept me company as I waited for her boss. Then she comes in spotting the broadest of smiles. Of course of particular interest to me was her exploits in so many countries at such a relative young age – under 30.
About three decades ago, a bouncy baby girl was birthed in Hong Kong and just after two days she was enroute to Beijing, China and was to move to Ethiopia till she was five years old. She was later to have her education in Beijing, Shanghai, Macau, Hong Kong, China; Melbourne, Australia; Seoul, South Korea; Bozeman, USA and Nancy, France.
Well in her education, something always comes up and she will have to pause it but she made it with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2011.
Having travelled the world extensively, Zoyo, who now represents U-Ton International, a China-based company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, sees Ghana as her home with the country receiving her with opened arms when she finally decided to settle.
Prior to her relocation to Ghana, Zoyo had been working with a joint venture private equity fund of Morgan Stanley and Chinese Investors based in Hong Kong that focuses on natural resources equity investments as well as financial institution mergers & acquisitions.
She was instrumental in the team that completed listing of Jingjuan International and CP Group’s acquisition of Ping An Insurance Group shares, all reputable companies in China, feats she cherishes so much.
In addition to her finance work, Zoyo is also the founder and CEO of Zephyr Global Resources Limited, a commodity exporting company based in Hong Kong, with presence in Dubai and some selected West African countrie s.
As she puts it, her arrival in Africa was supposed to end up in Libya, but as a Muslim country women in leadership have always run into one problem or the other adding that the instability in that country was not a factor for not settling in Tripoli.
So the religious constraints meant that she would have to seek an alternative with South and Nigeria all options on her table. But somehow U-Ton International came calling and offered her a position of representing them in ECOWAS but she will be based in Ghana.
Her new position meant she would be among one of the youngest fund managers in the country at which point she was in her mid-twenties. Her new job also meant she would be Vice-President of the firm in its Hong Kong office and with her Ghana role also running concurrently with a similar role in Libya.
Besides her role at U-Ton International, Zoyo has other stuff going for her where she employs on average 100 people. She has a saw mill factory in the Volta Region which employs roughly about 50 people depending on how good business is.
She is also into road construction and she prides herself in working as a sub-contractor on the Teshie LEKMA Hospital road and also was a sub-contractor on the Sofoline project in Kumasi. For her road construction firm, she engages between 30-300 people depending on the work load, she tells me.
At the U-Ton International’s office in Ghana, she has about 10 permanent staff. In all of these, she says her aim is to take good care of her employees as she has observed that most workers in Ghana are shortchanged by their employers who milk them dry and later give them peanuts.
According to her, for her businesses to thrive, much would depend on her employees and thus there is need for her workers to be motivated and know that they have a stake in the business and that’s one way for the business to grow.
Although she happens to be an expat, she has no plans of bringing in any other expat to work in any of her companies unless it is extremely impossible to get such expertise in Ghana. Even on that occasion, she would make sure that there is always someone on hand to benefit from such knowledge transfer to handle such future roles.
So after relocating to Ghana fully somewhere in 2016, what has been the greatest lesson for Zoyo, I asked her. “Patience. Ghanaians have taught me patience which is a virtue. I also got to know that, here, you don’t set too many goals at the same time. You do one after the other,” she adds.
With a career that’s on the up, Zoyo says she hopes to one day grace the cover of the Time Magazine. As to what she wants to be noted for then, she remains coy about it insisting that she’s yet to begin her legacy and so will be difficult for her to tell.
But even yet as she is supposedly not began her legacy, the life of Zoyo holds so much lessons on perseverance, dedication and hard work for a lot of business people and even students. It will be exciting to see her when she finally commences her legacy, which for sure, will truly be something out of this world!