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Uptown in the News  

July 31, 2003
Chicago Tribune
Organizations try to unite African immigrants
By Oscar Avila, Tribune staff reporter

With social services failing to keep up with a swelling population, African immigrants in Chicago are seeking relief with a concept that never seemed to work back home: a common identity centered on their native continent.

Based on a study of Chicago's African population, a report found that the community has limited access to immigration, job, education and health services.

The report, released by the fledgling Coalition of African Service Providers, also found that two-thirds of African immigrants in Chicago seek help primarily from ethnic organizations or family members, compared with about 10 percent who turn to social service agencies.

The number of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa in the Chicago area nearly tripled between 1990 and 2000, from 7,230 to 21,828, according to census figures. Researchers say Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia are the largest sources of African immigrants.

African immigrants in Chicago remain a highly educated and relatively well-paid group. More than 95 percent have at least a high school education, and 93 percent speak English "well" or "very well," according to a Roosevelt University analysis of census data.

But the study by the Coalition of African Service Providers found that many recent immigrants have difficulty acquiring jobs that pay well and are more likely to find work as baby-sitters or taxi drivers. The study found that nearly half the respondents had no knowledge of job-training programs and more than 85 percent hadn't heard about assistance programs for utility bills.

To view the entire article for a fee, please visit the Chicago Tribune website at www.chicagotribune.com.

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