Chinese Billionaire in Africa
Despite wealth, Han Fang never forgets tough early years in Africa.Watching Han Fang step out of an elevator wearing a warm smile at Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg, it's hard to imagine this single mother in her early 50s is a billionaire and still setting records among the Chinese community in her adopted country.
In 2004, Han opened South Africa's largest wholesale market for Chinese products and last November launched the country's first Chinese website-sa2cn.com.As president of the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce in South Africa, Han's business interests involve real estate, wholesale warehouses, chain stores, an auction company and a newspaper group.
"I am a layman in the website business, but I know it's the trend of media development," she says. She established African Times in 2006, one of three major Chinese newspapers in South Africa, to give the Chinese community a voice and provide information that could build business cooperation between China and South Africa. "Real estate is still the major business that I am dealing in, but the virtual economy will play a big role in the future. I want to know more about this new business through practice," she says.
Han graduated from a Shanghai university in the late 1980s with the same curiosity about the outside world that many of her generation shared.
"At that time, China had just opened up to the world and we saw many people finding success overseas," she says. "We were told that the outside world was like a paradise. A friend back from South Africa showed us a video about the country and pictured a promising future there."
In 1991, despite knowing little about South Africa, the 27-year-old flew to Johannesburg to work as an accountant in her friend's company.
She soon realized those dreams of finding the good life abroad easily were false and that everything was hard work. At her friend's company, the staff ate together and Han was too slow with her chopsticks to get much food."I could do nothing but watch. I just didn't know how to grab the food with chopsticks like them," she says.
Things began to look up a year later, when she married a businessman from Taiwan and quit work to become a housewife. The couple had two children and Han was busy, but her husband's business was failing and within three years of their wedding he was broke. Han's husband took his anger out on her, first with a bad attitude that later developed into domestic violence.