McKnight/Concordia study fills in data gaps on African immigrants’ impact in Minnesota

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400On a recent warm evening, Eritrean-born Afeworki Bein got busy serving beer, coffee and food as a long line of customers snaked insight Snelling Café, which he’s owned and operated since 2003.

When Bein, who immigrated to the United States 28 years ago, first opened his business in St. Paul, he only served coffee and soft drinks. But once he noted the increasing immigrant population in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood 10 years ago, he expanded the space and added new items to the menu.

“There were not these many people here,” said Bein, comparing the current African immigrant population in the Twin Cities to that in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “There were a few … and I knew them all.”

The neighborhood has now blossomed into a business hub for African immigrants in the Twin Cities, a home to thousands of immigrants and refugees, may of them from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria and Somalia.

Bruce Corrie, an economics professor at Concordia University in St. Paul, has been studying the economic growth of these communities for years.

In his latest “The Economic Potential of African Immigrants in Minnesota” report, Corrie unveiled the growing entrepreneurship and economic boom of African immigrants in Minnesota as well as the obstacles they’re facing in their pursuit of entrepreneurial success.

The community generates an estimated $1.6 billion in income purchasing power each year, according to the report. In the Twin Cities metro area alone, African immigrants spend an annual $800 million purchasing groceries, electronics, furniture and healthcare, among other things.

Funded by the McKnight Foundation, the report pulls information from more than 600 customer and business surveys, which Corrie and his team conducted in the Twin Cities, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

“The consumer and business surveys indicate that there is a sizeable market for ethic products,” stated the report, which was published in May. “For example, African immigrants in Minnesota spend an estimated $90 million in groceries at ethnic stores.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.


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