The African Development Center has announced it will be filling the significant void left by the death of founder Hussein Samatar last year.

It has named Nasibu Sareva its new executive director. A longtime member of the center’s management team, Sareva was appointed interim executive director following Samatar’s death from leukemia in August. He had been the center’s chief financial officer and head of its business development department, one of the most active in the state.

The African Development Center occupies a unique spot among economic development organizations. Its mission is to help businesses grow, build wealth and increase reinvestment in African communities across Minnesota.

Samatar’s American success story also is legend. As part of the first wave of Somali refugees in Minnesota, he learned English with the help of a Minneapolis librarian and eventually earned a master’s in business administration from the University of St. Thomas. As a member of the Minneapolis school board, he was the first person of Somali descent to be elected to public office in Minnesota and possibly in the United States.

Through training, workshops and loans, the center’s goal is to link the African immigrant community to regional and mainstream economies.

In 2013, the center provided small business loans to nearly 20 businesses in the African community. A third of those were start-up projects.

Total loans surpassed $1 million, more than triple the level lent in 2012. Additionally, more than $1 million in equity was invested, and those projects resulted in retaining more than 50 jobs and creating almost 120 new jobs, the center said. Default rates on the loans remained well below industry standards.

A native of Tanzania, Sareva holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the International Islamic University in Malaysia and an MBA in accounting from Lincoln University in Missouri.

Matthew Holm has been named deputy executive director.