The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

August 12, 2008

African Development Center opens Kato office

MANKATO — A new nonprofit launches this week that aims to help African immigrants purchase homes and start up viable businesses.

The African Development Center, housed in the Technology Plus building near Menards, opens Thursday. It will serve African immigrants in Mankato, St. Cloud, Willmar, Owatonna and Rochester.

“We expect to be busy,” said Hussein Samatar, director and founder of the African Development Center in the Twin Cities.

The office has been situated in Mankato for several reasons. First, it is here because of Mankato’s central location among the outstate communities it will serve.

Second, Mankato is still close to the Twin Cities main office.

And third, Mankato has a booming African population of its own.

At last count, Mankato’s population had more than 800 African immigrants, meaning 1 in every 40 residents is African, the center says.

Among the services the center will offer are classes that will teach African immigrants how to navigate American financial systems so they can effectively save money and purchase a home.

Their classes will be similar to Homestretch classes now available to first-time home buyers.

The difference is the center’s classes will address issues that often prevent Africans from saving enough money to buy a home.

“We have the ability to understand their mindset, and the ability to speak different African languages,” Samatar said. “We offer sitting down with them and doing counseling.

“We ask them to clean up their credit.”

The office will allow people to come to the office and get help, but it will also send its lone staff member, longtime Mankato resident Abdikadir Sugulle, out to conduct education sessions in all the communities the office will serve.

The center also specializes in working with African Muslims, whose culture doesn’t allow them to engage in lending practices where interest is charged.

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