About Us

How We Work

How We Work

African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) builds wealth within African immigrant communities through economic development activities. We work throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area to create wealth, lift immigrant communities out of poverty, and contribute to and benefit from the region’s vibrant economy.

At AEDS, we take pride in our ability to link clients to vital resources and foster meaningful partnerships with neighborhood and grassroots-based organizations. Our extensive cross-cultural intelligence and technical expertise allows AEDS to unleash the power of entrepreneurship within the communities we serve.

Our goals are simple. We want our clients to build businesses that create jobs with livable wages. We want families to own homes and to break free of poverty. We want to help disadvantaged communities achieve financial security.

We achieve these goals by providing the following services:

    • Entrepreneur promotion and training: We conduct introductory workshops to promote entrepreneurship as a vehicle for creating income-earning opportunities and small businesses with African immigrants. Graduates are eligible to receive small business technical assistance services.
    • Small business technical assistance: We support a diverse and growing portfolio of emerging and established small businesses with culturally appropriate technical assistance (TA). Staff and consultants help aspiring entrepreneurs turn their ideas into lucrative business and make technical assistance and micro-loans available to help businesses develop, survive and thrive. We provide TA in the areas of marketing, accounting, licensing and permit, business structure, legal issues, and packaging loans with partner organizations and via AEDS’ growing revolving loan fund.
    • Micro-lending: We manage a growing revolving loan fund to meet African immigrant entrepreneurs’ need for loan access and credit-building. We provide direct lending and package loans in collaboration with partner organizations.
    • Financial and homeownership education: We promote homeownership as a wealth creation vehicle for African immigrants via financial education and Minnesota Homeownership certified Home Stretch homebuying workshops and pre-purchase counseling.
    • Community development: We build sustainable wealth within African immigrant communities through creative placemaking via the Little Africa Business and Cultural district, a branding and marketing campaign focused on leveraging diverse businesses, arts and cultural assets along transit corridors. We also conduct ongoing community engagement to ensure African immigrants have a voice in community development and serve as a cultural broker in advocating for smart policies that promote the growth of African immigrant businesses.
Our Mission

Our Mission

Since African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) opened its doors in 2008, we have come to learn that while demographers predict that immigrants and people of color will make up an increasingly substantial portion of the population in the Twin Cities, economic disparities are still prevalent.

At AEDS, our mission is to build wealth within African immigrant communities. We work throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area to create wealth, lift immigrant communities out of poverty, and contribute to and benefit from the region’s vibrant economy.

Access to key resources, supportive institutional frameworks, and nourishing environments are all necessary elements for creating financial success within marginalized communities.

AEDS confronts economic disparities in the communities we serve by providing entrepreneurship promotion, small business development, micro-lending, homeownership education and community development initiatives to facilitate healthy, vibrant communities. We strive to empower entrepreneurs and small business owners and to foster financial independence among families and individuals across our region.

Our History

Our History

African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) was established in 2008. AEDS emerged out of the efforts of a small group of immigrants who were concerned about the paucity of business ownership among the vast African immigrant communities in the Twin Cities. The group realized that African immigrants had to grapple with rampant economic disparities and other unique barriers that hindered the community’s ability to seize the numerous opportunities available in Minnesota.

Overtime, the group quickly learned from local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs that some of the most limiting of these barriers were related to language and cultural differences. The group also concluded that wealth-building held the key to empowering African immigrants in the region and decided to create a business development organization built around cultural intelligence and with an asset-based model.

AEDS was founded for public benefit and operates to accomplish our well-defined mission: Wealth creation within marginalized communities and communities of Black heritage in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. We accomplish this by providing customized financial literacy training, micro-entrepreneurship training and coaching, and homeownership education. AEDS assists recent African immigrants and other marginalized Americans to develop themselves and transform their communities. Through entrepreneurship, homeownership, and wealth creation, AEDS builds sustainable economic success in the vibrant and diverse communities we serve.

AEDS has been contributing its fair share not only in raising awareness and visibility for African immigrant-owned businesses, but also by providing the technical assistance and cultural intelligence marginalized communities need to succeed in a highly competitive environment. AEDS is an impactful business development organization with big dreams for the future. We are bullish on the prospects of our communities and confident in our ability to open up economic opportunities for them.

Board of Directors

2021 Board of Directors

Kate Speed, Board Chair
Program Officer
Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

Gene Gelgelu
President and CEO
African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS)

Phillip L. Hampton, Treasurer
Finance Department Chair
Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota

Abraham Dalu, Ph.D, Board Member
Operation Manager
A & A Reliable Home Health Care, LLC

Rebecca Cooper, Board Secretory 
Affluent Segment Leader, Community Banking
Wells Fargo

Anthony J. Isubikalu, Board Member
Assistant Vice President, U.S Bank Wealth Management
U.S Bank

Ebisso Uka
CEO, Rift Valley Transportation (RVT)

Our Partners

Community Partners and Funders

We would like to thank our numerous community partners and funders for their past and continued support of AEDS. These partnerships and contributions have been vital resources to AEDS as we seek to fight poverty and build wealth within marginalized communities.

Community Partners:

  • Neighborhood Development Center (NDC)
  • Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD)
  • St.Paul Coalition for Community Development
  • Asian Economic Development Solutions
  • Metropolitan Economic Development Association
  • Frogtown Neighborhood Association
  • Prospect Park 2020
  • Creative Enterprise Zone
  • Aurora Saint Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation
  • Midway Murals
  • St.Paul Public Housing
  • Central Corridor as Cultural Corridor (C4)
  • The Saint Paul Riverfront Corporation
  • The Minnesota Homeownership Center
  • East Side Enterprise Center
  • African Families Development Network
  • African Immigrant Services
  • West African Collaborative
  • Brian Coyle Community Center
  • Oromo Community of Minnesota
  • Ethiopian Community of Minnesota
  • Eritrean Community of Minnesota
  • Cameroon Community of Minnesota
  • Nigerian Community of Minnesota


  • The Minneapolis Foundation
  • The Saint Paul Foundation
  • Otto Bremer Foundation
  • The FR Bigelow Foundation
  • The McKnight Foundation
  • Nexus Community Partners
  • Nonprofits Assistance Fund
  • Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
  • The Knight Foundation
  • The City of Minneapolis
  • The City of Saint Paul
  • The Funders Collaborative
  • State of Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
  • State of Minnesota Homeownership, Education, Counseling and Training Fund (HECAT) through Minnesota Homeownership Center
  • Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA)- Little Africa Fest Support
  • City of Saint Paul Cultural STAR Program- Little Africa Fest Support
  • Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC)- Little Africa Fest Support
  • US Bank- Little Africa Fest Support
  • Sunrise Banks- Little Africa Fest Support