Bringing a taste of Africa to the U.S. Midwest

Abdirahman Kahin carrying food in aluminum foil containers from car with trunk open (© Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune/Getty Images)
Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli, delivers food he is donating to survivors of a fatal apartment building fire in Minneapolis. (© Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune/Getty Images)

Since Abdirahman Kahin moved to the United States, he has never stopped dreaming.

Born in Somalia and raised in Djibouti, he immigrated to the United States in 1996. Kahin worked for a media company before he discovered his passion was in food service.

He opened his first restaurant in 2010 in Minneapolis to bring a taste of Africa to the Midwest. Customers can order Somali steak sandwiches and curry goat, among other options.

“In Africa, there is no frozen food. We cook every day, so we wanted to bring that concept here,” Kahin said. “It’s delicious.”

Kahin recently was named the 2023 U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Person of the Year. The award honors individuals who demonstrate leadership and build thriving community businesses.

Isabella Casillas Guzman and Abdirahman Kahin posing with award (U.S. Small Business Administration)
2023 National Small Business Person of the Year Abdirahman Kahin, right, with Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman (U.S. Small Business Administration)

Bigger dreams

Kahin now owns four restaurants, all called Afro Deli, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and also supplies area stores. Continued expansion is on the menu. One day he hopes to have the first African restaurant chain in the United States.

“I believe the American dream,” Kahin said. “I believe everything’s possible if you work hard.”

He met with President Biden and Vice President Harris at the White House May 1. Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff visited Kahin’s restaurant in Minneapolis two days later.

“He combines great ideas with hard work and diligence, and we are honored that SBA has been a part of his successful and ongoing journey,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.

Kahin obtained several loans from SBA, including support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency assists small business owners with financing that allows them to stay competitive.

Giving back

Abdirahman Kahin arranging food on tray (© Marlin Levison/Star Tribune/Getty Images)
Abdirahman Kahin arranges some of the 350 sambusas his restaurant cooked for a 2011 fundraiser to raise awareness and help youth in Somalia. (© Marlin Levison/Star Tribune/Getty Images)

Kahin also helps the surrounding community. He is active in efforts to combat hunger. During COVID-19, he worked with charities to deliver food to people in need.

“Sometimes, when God gives you that kind of privilege, you have to be able to help and do as much as you can,” he said.

Small businesses are engines for creativity and economic growth. There are more than 33 million small businesses in the U.S. In expressing his appreciation for the award, Kahin compared it to winning an American Super Bowl football championship.

“This is for the community, for East Africa, for the Somali community and for the people of color,” he said.