The brightly colored green and orange building on Riverside and 20th Avenues is a beacon of hope for many aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs. It houses the African Development Center which provides business and home loans for African, Asian and Latin American immigrants as well as training on financial literacy, business development and home ownership. It serves many of the same functions as Scandia Bank (now Associated Bank on Cedar and Riverside Avenues) did for Scandinavian immigrants 100 years ago.
ADC was founded by Somali American Hussein Samatar in 2003. In 1991, Samatar was an aspiring economist and had just graduated from college when his home country was engulfed in civil war. “It makes you who you are, if you go through that humbling experience. One day, you are on top of the world, and the other day, you are fleeing from shelling, killing and mayhem.” Samatar fled the violence and in 1993 was allowed entry to the U.S. He arrived by himself, leaving family and friends behind, “But I never looked back; I looked forward.” He learned English at a Minneapolis library and went on to get an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.
After working for a bank for a few years he was inspired from his own experiences to create the ADC to help other African immigrants and refugees get the financial training needed for their new lives in America. Many of these services were not available through traditional channels: ADC, for instance, responded to the needs of Muslim entrepreneurs by creating interest-free loans.
One business the ADC helped was the Afro Deli, a popular restaurant that offers a fusion of East African and Middle Eastern cuisine. Abdirahman Kahin, a Somali American entrepreneur, founded it in 2010 as "a social venture that attempts to weave together business with community and culture." It was one of the first businesses supported by the ADC from its flagship location in Cedar-Riverside.
The ADC now has locations throughout Minnesota and has helped hundreds of immigrants and refugees gain the economic tools they need to realize their dreams. Several ADC-sponsored businesses are located in its building on 1931 S. 5th St.