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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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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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