From Africa to America: Why thousands are moving to the US

World Today

A growing number of Africans — particularly those from Nigeria and Ethiopia — are choosing to make the U.S. their home. The number of African migrants has doubled every decade for nearly 50 years, and the U.S. Congress may get its first Africa-born member.

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports from Los Angeles.

Ted Alemayhu lives, works, breathes West LA.

Ethiopian by birth and American by choice, Alemayhu is running for Congress and hoping to set a record.

“From being a poor kid in Ethiopia, to coming to America, working hard, getting a tremendous amount of help from this great nation’s people, I have achieved a lot of things but I don’t necessarily look back,” he said.

“I’m always looking forward and I think ‘what else can I do that helps this country.’”

If he wins, Alemayhu will be the first Ethiopian-born—in fact, the first African-born congressman, inspiring others to reach high regardless of where they’re from.

“We immigrants have so much to contribute to this nation,” he said.

“Take a look around us. Immigrants are scientists, doctors. They invent things; they participate even in law enforcement, our military, at the White House, the State Department. All these places which require high powered genius, immigrants are playing some critical roles. And so, that’s what it is and they’re giving back to the country that gave them so much.”

Africans still only form a small part of overall immigrant numbers in the United States.

But more of them are choosing to make this country their home than ever before. In fact, that figure is roughly doubling with every decade that passes according to new research.

In 1970, there were only 80,000 African immigrants to the U.S. That has grown to around 2 million in 2015, with Nigerians numbering the most and Ethiopians not far behind.

“Americans are like Ethiopians because they’re decent people and hardworking people, really,” Aklli Tadesse said.

She runs this restaurant in Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia.

She came to America in 1988, and like so many here, she makes her living go a long way — literally.

“I builded this business up—I’m going to support people at home,” Aklli said. “I send a little money and then I send some more. I help my Grandma, my Mom, everybody.”

Of course, African migration to the U.S. is not new. The slave trade brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans here.

But voluntary migration is relatively new, and a product of the past.

“Back in the 70s and the 80s, Ethiopia had a major famine,” explains Charles Anchang with “The Immigrant” magazine.

“And America went to Africa for the rescue of the Ethiopian families, so they brought in a million refugees and they found settlements for them around the United States, all around the country. They’ve come, settled, grown businesses, families and now they’ve been able to extend invitations to family members.”

As for Alemayhu, living in the U.S. was a dream that came true.

“I feel quite blessed,” he said. “With that blessing comes responsibility too.”