The African presence has become highly visible on the streets of more than a few American cities and neighborhoods - Harlem is the prime example. In the area around West 116th Street - called Little Senegal - Africans, mostly from French-speaking nations, own most of the stores.
African entrepreneurs have made their mark in other locales. In Philadelphia, an area of recent settlement, African women own more then twenty braiding salons. This follows a long-held West African tradition. Women have always formed a dynamic entrepreneurial group; in many countries they control the markets and also engage in long-distance commerce. In the United States, vendors of both sexes roam the country, bringing African arts and crafts to local fairs, flea markets, and African-American cultural events.
From the time of the transatlantic slave trade, African arts and crafts transmitted and transformed over several generations have been at the core of African-American culture. Today, traditions developed and modernized in Africa and brought here by the immigrants are infusing a new dynamism into the cultural productions of the African-American community.
Some highly educated immigrants, realizing that their limited proficiency in English and their foreign degrees would make it difficult to get the American jobs they coveted, have instead opened their own businesses. This entrepreneurial spirit is deeply ingrained in Africa, where the informal economic sector is particularly dynamic. To be one's own boss is a common aspiration there, and Africans in the United States make the most of the opportunities offered by a free market economy. These entrepreneurs do not look for a job; they come to create one. From information technology to the oil industry, they have established several successful companies.
They are also a major force in the revitalization of some inner-city neighborhoods. Without help from banks, using their own money augmented by income from communal rotating savings funds, they have opened stores, car services, and restaurants that provide needed services to the community.