Touray Kunda came to Detroit from Gambia for business opportunities. He stayed because Touray Kunda Enterprises, his importing business, boomed.

“If business is not good back home, you think, ‘Let me go to America, home of the immigrant,’?” Kunda said.

After she finished medical school in Nigeria, Kehinde Ayeni, came for more post-graduate work. The psychiatrist stayed because economic and social circumstances in Nigeria made it impossible to find work.

“Most professionals still can’t find jobs there,” Ayeni said. “I believe many people migrate for the same reason.”

African immigration to Metro Detroit is at a historically high level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, having grown by about 400 percent since 1990. The African brain drain is a brain gain for the region, observers say.

More highly educated than the general population or other communities of recent immigrants, Africans are influencing Metro Detroit professions, higher education, neighborhoods, religions and culture. . .

The immigrants are affecting spiritual lives in Christian and Muslim congregations.

Two mosques opened recently to accommodate some of the new residents, the Masjid as-Salaam, on West Seven Mile near Lahser, and the Detroit Muslim Community Center, on Marlborough, blocks east of the Chandler Golf Course.

“They add a different perspective to the Muslim community,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan. Many of the immigrants from West Africa, in particular, are devoted to the more mystical Sufi strain of Islam.

“Their preaching or orientation is more geared towards a discussion of not only a love of God, but the responsibility Muslims have to have a healthy relationship with other human beings and being more considerate of others.”


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