African Leadership Conference 2020

African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) is proud to host our first annual National African Immigrant Leadership Conference on December 10–11, 2020. During this time of uncertainty and trauma, African Immigrants are facing some of the biggest challenges to our economic future in modern history. COVID–19 is damaging our small business sector and the uprisings all across the country as a result of the murder of George Floyd and other innocent Black lives continues to be a catalyst for strife. 

It’s estimated that 26% of the Black population in Minnesota is African-born while African immigrants nationally make up 9% of the Black population on average. Here in Minnesota we contribute $281 billion to the retail economy, and $183 million in taxes annually to the state. We have stakes in this region and this economy and beyond. That’s why, as Minnesotans, we are uniquely positioned to host this national conference. We know that African immigrants can lead the way in healing and economic recovery. As a community, African immigrants know how to create innovative solutions to our country’s largest problems by tapping into the diversity of our community to address problems that we all face. We know what it takes to create community-based opportunities and use our resources to lift up those of us who are in need. 

That’s why this year, AEDS will convene the National African Leadership Conference that will bring together established and emerging leaders for a two-day virtual conference that can provide opportunities for growth, leadership, and cross-community ideation and that will provide the space and resources to inspire, equip, and connect leaders within the many diverse African immigrant communities that have built homes, businesses, and movements in the US. 

We hope you will join us in making the first African Leadership Conference a movement-building event. 

For information on how your organization can sponsor this event contact Gene Gelgelu, AEDS Founder, President and CEO at

African Women Leadership Development/Empowerment

In this breakout session, African women entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and artists share their stories and discuss the multiple pathways that women in their communities can take to leadership.

Growing/Developing African-led Business Enterprises

African immigrants have $40.3 billion in spending power nationally. In Minnesota alone, economists estimate that there are between 2200–3200 African immigrant-owned small businesses. This session will feature panelists from leading African small business development organizations sharing insights about the challenges faced by African entrepreneurs as they launch, operate, and grow successful enterprises.

Advancing African Civil and Human Rights in the U.S. and World

Experts in international humanitarian movements and U.S. Civil law will share information about local, national, and international laws designed to protect and expand African people’s civil and human rights.

Business Panel

Small business ownership has long been a pillar of the American Dream. For thousands of African immigrants, being an entrepreneur is the most viable avenue to financial self-sufficiency and family wealth building. This session will feature successful African immigrant entrepreneurs sharing their experiences as business owners.

Education Panel

Pathways to success begin with a solid, well-rounded education that prepares and empowers individuals to navigate systems and make informed decisions in all areas of their lives. This session will spotlight K-12, two-year, and four-year educational trends among African students and promising strategies for addressing academic performance disparities, college admissions, and graduation rates experienced by Black children and youth.

Government & Policy Panel

Government entities can be critical allies for Africans and other BIPOC communities striving for a better quality of life when they are effectively engaged, and their resources efficiently deployed. This panel will provide information about various institutions’ roles, resources, and opportunities for cross-sector partnership opportunities with African communities.

STEM Panel

The STEM fields present tremendous possibilities for Africans to achieve economic prosperity as they address various challenges facing Minnesota, the country, and worldwide. Expert panelists will highlight and discuss innovative STEM strategies being deployed by Africans to improve health, transportation, housing, and other opportunity systems.

Day Two Opening Keynote Alfa Demmellash, CEO, Rising Tide Capital
Wealth Building; Economic Prosperity

This session will feature a panel of leaders dedicated to advancing racial equity and inclusion in the U.S. economy and building multi-sector coalitions to achieve this vision. They will discuss economic inclusion indicators and strategies employed to create opportunities for economic prosperity and multi-generational wealth in African immigrant communities and other economically marginalized populations.

Global Africa

Panelists in this session will explore strategies to preserve and deepen connections between Africans in the U.S. and abroad to build a more economically thriving and prosperous Africa. They will highlight the importance of reinforcing African identity among younger generations raised and educated in an American society where their race, their Blackness, takes prominence over their ethnic cultures.

Advancing Economic Prosperity with Credible Data Tools

In this session, a panel of expert economists and researchers will discuss the need and importance of data as a tool for informing and evaluating the impacts of economic development and other policies, private sector and philanthropic investments, and community-driven strategies.

African Youth Leadership Development–Keynote Panel

Energized and impassioned to make positive social change and impacts, African youth are not waiting for the future and taking leadership and action now. This keynote panel will feature leading African youth activists, entrepreneurs, and organizers who disrupt systems and build new powerful multi-racial movements.

Building Power through Civic Engagement and the Political Process

Africans are stepping up to change the political landscape and actively participating in local civic processes. Africans readily volunteer, vote at high rates, and are elected and appointed to public office at all government levels. Presentations by African elected officials and organizers will highlight the vital need for Africans’ ongoing and deep civic engagement to ensure fair representation in government and the adoption of community-responsive policies.

Health and Wellness: Surviving vs. Thriving

Meditation and Panel. African mental health and community wellness experts will discuss the unprecedented levels of stress among African immigrants resulting from the health and economic impacts of COVID 19, social unrest, and divided political climate. Panelists will elevate best practices in healing and wellness and offer strategies for building the socio-emotional resiliency needed to navigate the challenges of our time and future crises.

Positive Differences; African Immigrants and African American Collaboration; Building Bridges- African Born vs. U.S. Born

This panel will offer recommendations for addressing and preventing cross-cultural tensions between African-born and historic African American communities. Participants will identify and discuss strategies that leverage both communities’ many assets and identify cooperative and complementary strategies to build greater solidarity and inclusive Pan African/Black power.