By Theodore Opara
In less than 10 years of doing automobile business in Nigeria, the Chief Diana Chen-led CIG Choice International Group, representative of GAC Motors in Nigeria is seen to have dominated the nation’s auto industry, bringing a lot of innovations and added value into the business.
The auto firm, the country’s representative of GAC Motors, has undoubtedly changed the perception of Nigerians about China-made automobiles.
Before now, only first-time buyers of new vehicles ventured near Chinese automobiles and many had their fingers burnt.
Today, car buyers including the society’s movers and shakers are proud to identify with the CIG brand from China, found to be strong, classy with robust after-sale. To build more confidence on the brand CIG has just unveiled a G-style showroom and workshop in Victoria Island, Lagos, with the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, opening the facility built with a new concept and ultra modern equipment.
Apart from providing space to display new tastefully furnished and distinctively designed cars, the waiting areas for customers (G-Elite, G-Stars and G-Family) offer clients an opportunity to interact with three different cultures – Nigeria, Europe and China. The visitors are made to admire Nigerian artworks in a cozy environment.
Chen, in an interview, said, “When we were designing the showroom and planning the opening, we thought of the message we want to put across to the people. Someone came up with the name G-Style and it was discussed that it must be of international standard.
“Apart from the classy automobiles on display, we must have the European architecture, Chinese brand with African artwork. It should have the art spirits. It is a combination of the artwork and the new car technology. They are not just ordinary cars but the beauty of technology.”
She explained that the “G” is for everything good, great and colorful, adding, “The G of course represents the GAC.”
The CIG chairman is not new to the promotion of Nigerian cultures and talents; she is known to have sponsored major cultural events including the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, The Voice Nigeria and Miss Nigeria.
Her company also supports the development sports by identifying with event such as the 21st African Athletics Championships; the Lagos City Marathon; Feet & Tricks Football Competition; and the Lagos State Charity Boxing Exhibition (Rumbles in Lagos).
As a proof of her commitment towards the promotion of China-Africa cooperation and China-Nigeria trade and cultural exchanges, the Chairman of CIG is currently the Vice-Chairman of China-Africa Business Council and Regional Director of the Belt & Road International Commercial Mediation Centre in West Africa.
She was actively involved in the establishment of the mediation centre in West Africa in 2019. The Belt and Road Initiative is a strategy initiated by China seeking to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks with the aim of improving regional integration, increasing trade and stimulating economic growth.
The CIG has extended into the production of essential home and office electronic items through Lontor Home and Gree Nigeria, an air conditioning brand.
She also launched the Choice International Business School in collaboration with the Confucius Institute at the University of Lagos, an initiative meant to give opportunity for company’s workers to acquire more knowledge while earning their living.
Apart from providing direct jobs for Nigerians in the company, the group has embarked on the training and empowerment of young technicians under one of its subsidiaries, Gree Nigeria. Those trained are thereafter provided with necessary equipment to start work immediately, an initiative aimed at taking many out of the job market.
The firm recently confirmed that it would in a few months open in Ogba, Lagos, an auto assembly plant being developed in conjunction with the state government aimed at invigorating the nation’s economy,” says the CIG boss.
“We are helping a number of Nigerian organisations, private and public to grow such as LCCI, NIPPS, Air Peace, in different ways, either through partnership or sponsorship of programmes/events.
“We signed an agreement with the LCCI at the beginning of the year. Gree Airconditioner is the head sponsor of the Lagos International Trade Fair,” Chen said.
“China recognizes Nigeria’s high level of friendship. Nigeria is one of our topmost friends. “And we have taken up the challenge in Nigeria through our company.”
These engagements and active participation in local public welfare activities and shows have earned her accolades and recognition. For instance, Chen was awarded Vanguard’s Foreign Investor of the Year 2021, the first non Nigerian to clinch the prestigeous award. She won the Auto CEO of The Year prize at the prestigious Nigeria Auto Journalists Awards last year.
She is the first to be decorated with this prize by the auto journalists while her GAC GSA Sports Utility Vehicle won the Most Fascinating SUV of The Year award, the first by any Chinese made auto company.
She was in 2015 conferred with a chieftaincy title in Nigeria, the Iyalaje of Oshodi, making her the first Chinese female chief in the country. She had since received two more titles from Ondo State.
By Theodore Opara