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African Economic Development Solutions, Finalist for 2016 Knight Cities Challenge



In her now famous TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said “…when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) plans to do just that.

Tuesday, January 12 the Knight Foundation announced that AEDS’ proposed project “More Than a Single Continent: an intellectual tour of Little Africa through food, music, and discussion.” is a finalist for the Knight Cities Challenge. Of the 158 finalists chosen out of 4,500 applications from 26 different cities across the nation, AEDS is one of 10 finalist based in St. Paul.

The second year of a three-year run, the Knight Cities Challenge will select winners from among the finalist which comprise of nonprofits, government organizations, design experts and urban planning groups. The Knight Foundation will distribute 5 million dollars to the winning projects that best answer ways to make their cities successful. Winners will be announced by the foundation in the Spring of 2016.

AEDS’ proposed project “More Than a Single Continent” seeks to showcase the diversity of local African communities by hosting a series of events and discussions centered on food and music as the entry point to facilitate meaningful community dialogue, to educate, and to provide multidimensional visibility for the many African immigrant communities that call St. Paul home.

The ultimate goal of this project will be to mainstream a more inclusive and complex narrative of what it means to be African, but also to broaden what it means to be a resident of St. Paul. Through these discussions and events AEDS hopes to bridge the gaps that disengage folks, to establish a space where diverse peoples, especially communities of color, see themselves as a vital part of St. Paul’s long-term fabric.

This is the second time AEDS has been a finalist for a Knight Foundation award. In 2015 AEDS was a finalist for the Knight Green Line Challenge award which AEDS eventually won for a separate Little Africa project. Little Africa, a virtual and place based branding effort launched by AEDS in 2013, is rooted in St. Paul’s historic Hamline Midway area.

Since its launch, Little Africa has partnered with numerous community organizations to collaborate on dynamic community centered projects and events. One of the most visually recognizable of those collaborations can be viewed along Snelling Avenue where several murals decorate small businesses, thanks to a collaboration with Midway Murals.

Through Little Africa, AEDS hopes to implement creative placemaking strategies to foster meaningful community engagement, to inspire and create a space where St. Paul’s diverse populations of African heritage communities can thrive.

Posted in: Company News, Little Africa of Minnesota, Press

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African Economic Development Solutions Wins Prestigious Award


Saturday October 10th African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) was announced as the winner of the African Non-Profit Organization of the Year award at the prestigious African Awards. Presented by Mshale Newspaper, the annual African Awards were held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Initiated nearly five years ago by Mshale Newspaper founder and President Tom Gitaa, the African Awards celebrate the remarkable achievements and successes  of African immigrant communities throughout the United States.

To be considered for the awards, community members submit nominations of notable individuals and organizations in the African Immigrant to Mshale. The submissions are then sorted by a select committee of judges before finalist are announced on Mshale’s website. AEDS was announced as a finalist in September. After the finalist are announced, Mshale opens up a public text-to-vote campaign for the community to vote for their favorite finalist. The 2015-2016 winners were announced during the African Awards.

A red carpet event, the African Awards attracted a large crowd and was emceed by KMOJA radio DJ Charles Dennis. With opening remarks from DJ Dennis and a fashion show from designer Hilda Mauya’s line, Dahil Republic of Couture.

The event’s program included Kenyan tech guru and humanitarian David Kobia, who served as the keynote speaker. During his speech, Kobia spoke at length about the power and potential of the African diaspora. Kobia also spoke about the work of his internationally acclaimed and innovative non-profit tech company Ushahidi, which created a platform to crowdsource information for communities in need.

With a number of individual and collective awards, the African Award winners included activist Wintana Melekin, emerging politician Ilhan Omar, Paschal Nwokocha Law Offices LLC, and several other winners.

For AEDS the African Awards come right on the heels of another major success. Last month, it was announced that AEDS was one of 12 winners of the 2016 Knight Green line Challenge for its Little Africa Cultural Corridor project. The award provides funding to further the development of Little Africa as a vital cultural district in the Twin Cities.Winning the African Non-Profit award validates the years of hard work and sacrifice AEDS staff and supporters have devoted to improving the community.

Special thanks to our board, the AEDS office staff, our numerous community partners, and thanks to our dynamic community members whose votes and continuous support made  our award possible.

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AEDS awarded $60,000 for Little Africa Cultural Corridor

Wednesday, September 30, African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) was announced as one of twelve winners of the Knight Green Line Challenge, a contest designed to revitalize neighborhoods surrounding St. Paul’s Light Rail. Administered by the St. Paul Foundation, this is the second year of the challenge, which launched in 2014.IMG_1760 (2)

With goals to expand economic opportunity, dismantle divides, and to foster civic engagement within the community, the Knight Green Line Challenge was open for any individual, business, or nonprofit to apply. The grant was more competitive this year, the Knight Green Line Challenge received over 300 applicants and awarded 12 winners a share in $574,000 of grant funds. Last year, 16 winners of the challenge shared only $530,000.

AEDS was awarded $60,000 for its Little Africa Cultural Corridor project. The project is designed to better market and support local African owned businesses and entrepreneurs. The idea is to bolster Little Africa’s position as one of the Twin Cities vibrant and distinctive cultural districts. AEDS will partner with the Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation to complete the Little Africa project.

“I am very thrilled to see and witness that they (AEDS) were one of the award winners” Said Dr. Abraham Dalu, the Operations Manager of A&A Reliable Home Health Care.

An avid supporter of the Little Africa Cultural Corridor project and a recipient of the marketing and business development services AEDS provides, Dr. Dalu was one of many attendees of a banquet hosted by the Knight Green Line Challenge Wednesday evening to honor the 12 winning applicants at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul.

“With Little Africa, the concept is to bring people together so that they can share a common future.” Said Dr. Dalu.

During the ceremony members of the Knight Green Line Challenge presented each of the 12 winners with custom coffee mugs inscribed with the titles of their innovative projects. The winners each had an opportunity to share their innovated project ideas with the audience and gave impassioned speeches about the goals of their projects.


“We’re humbled to receive the award” Said Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director of AEDS.

Representatives of each winning project brought staff and loved ones to celebrate the night. Over all the ceremony was fun-loving and joyous. Towards the end of the ceremony, attendees mingled and conversed with one another. The atmosphere of the night was electric with promise and a shared ambition to bring life back into the diverse neighborhoods along the St. Paul Green Line.

Special Thanks to LISC, The Minneapolis Foundation, the Nexus Community Partners, The Knight Green Line Challenge, and many others for their continuous support of AEDS and our Little Africa project.

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AEDS Explores Fresh Economic Opportunities During African Immigrant Farming Tour


Group picture of tour goers at the Hmong American Farmers Association

The weather may have been rainy, but that didn’t deter a small group of AEDS supporters from seeking out fresh opportunities. Thursday, September 17th AEDS led a small team of local business owners and community leaders on a farming tour. The group met on the sites of the Minnesota Food Association farm in St. Croix and on the Hmong American Farmers Association farm in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


The purpose of the tour was to explore the opportunities available for potential farmers within the diverse African immigrant communities AEDS serves. Representatives from the farms led group discussions surrounding the economic and health benefits of local farming. The farming tour was sponsored in part by AgStar Financial Services and AgriBank.

The tour aligns with AEDS’ mission to generate wealth within marginalized communities and communities of African heritage in Minnesota. AEDS believes that by exploring alternative means of creating access to key resources and by nurturing dynamic community partnerships, together we can bolster financial success within marginalized and African immigrant communities.

Posted in: Company News, Little Africa of Minnesota

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Thank You to Our 2015 Little Africa Fest Sponsors

AEDS and the Little Africa Business and Cultural District of Minnesota would like to thank the Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), U.S Bank, NEXUS Community Partners, and all the local business owners that helped make Little Africa’s contribution to the 2015 Midway Arts Festival happen. Special thanks to the talented artist, musicians, dancers, the AEDS volunteers,our co-sponsors Midway Mural, and the numerous community members who made the festival a success.

midway mural

Mural painted along the Pizza Market Shop building for festival

Little Africa artists, performers , and volunteers.

Little Africa artists, performers , and volunteers.


Posted in: Little Africa of Minnesota

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Little Africa campaign launched in St. Paul, Minnesota

By Justyna Smela Wolski, TC Daily Planet
November 16, 2013

Cultural dance by India Jamal

Snelling Café hosted the presentation of the Little Africa campaign on November 14, a marketing and branding campaign that is part of the World Cultural Heritage District along University Avenue in St. Paul. The campaign is a project of African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) of Minnesota. The celebration focused on values of entrepreneurship and was a “marketing and branding campaign to bring visibility the more than $1.4 billion African Immigrant economy of Minnesota.” According to Gene Gelgelu, the Executive Director of AEDS, the project includes 28 businesses which created “at least 100 jobs” producing a big “impact on immigrant communities”. The mission of AEDS is to “build wealth within African communities. AEDS provide business training, small business-coaching, access to loans and financial literacy”, said Teshite Wako, CFO of Neighborhood Development Center. The goal is also to be “visible and get recognized” as “our voices count, and also our resources count.”

Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright was an honored guest and spoke at the event. Expressing her satisfaction in being part of the “diversity of African culture,” Justice Wright said: “It is wonderful to celebrate to your civic engagement and all of the values that go along with it. (…) These values include patriotism, both pride in America and pride in our countries of origin. The value of civic engagement and participation (…) the value of capitalism, that is truly the American way, and I see it so embraced, I smell it in the food that is so wonderfully prepared for us to consume and I see in the commitment to moving our communities forwards, working hard.” Thankfulness for the U.S. economic system was also highlighted afterward by the entrepreneurs Afeworki Bein, owner of Snelling Café, and Teshome Belayeneh, owner of Rebecca’s Bakery.

Little Africa’s celebration included numerous partners and their representatives: Hassan Hussein, Oromo Community of Minnesota; Lemlen Kebede, Ethiopian Community of Minnesota; Michael Fondungullah, Cameroonian Community; Ghas Mends, Sierra Leone Community in Minnesota; and Dr. Kenny Odusote, Minnesota Institute for Nigerian Development. Some of the speakers compared the situation of African diaspora to other communities. This was the case of Fondungullah who expressed his conviction in relocating African businesses along the Corridor to gain visibility “as the Hmongs” have done.

Paige Joostens, a student at Concordia University, another partner of Little Africa, presented the “Survey on College Students and Ethnic Markets.” The research, based on the purchase power of college students and their consumption of ethnic food, showed that, in case of delivery, “ease of ordering, punctuality, transparency of cost, quality of food and temperature” were all above average and there were no complaints about the services provided. She also suggested improvements in meeting college student’s needs, such as their potential desite to study in the restaurants.

Little Africa also presented the launch of their Free Library, to which Justice Wright provided DVDs from the Minnesotan Judicial branch, “Going to court in Minnesota” in English and African languages, and a guide about the same topic, although only in English. Little Africa was a total African experience of pride, call to action and culture, completed by African snacks from Snelling Café and a dance show by India Jamal.

This is one of a number of articles produced by student interns at the TC Daily Planet.

Related story:

Little Africa cultural district launched in St. Paul (Eric Blom, TC Daily Planet, 2012)

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

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