Mr. Simon Gerald Menhya, Ag. Commissioner for Refugees, Office of the Prime Minister has said the widespread demand for financial services among refugees in Uganda represents a potential market for financial service providers in the country.
Mr Menhya made the revelation on Tuesday during the launch of Financial Inclusion for Refugees (FI4R) project in Kampala.
“Out of the 1.4 million refugees, 300,000 are professionals like teachers, pilots and some have big business empires. When we consulted these Internationally Displaced Persons, we found out that they have appetite for financial services. So this is a fertile ground for supporting these people to access the services,” he said.
“While credit ready refugees should be given immediate attention by the financial service providers even those who are not ready should be helped as well.”
Funded by Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU) and FSD Africa, the FI4R aims at supporting financial service providers (FSPs) to offer financial services to refugees and host communities.
Uganda hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world with approximately 1.4 million refugees settled in urban centres and 28 refugee settlements across the country.
At the same launch, Ms Juliet Tumuzoire, the Head of Financial Services, FSDU said over the years, refugees and host communities have been lagging behind when it comes to financial inclusion.
“According to the FinScope report 2018, overall financial inclusion stood at 78 per cent for adult men and 77 per cent for adult females in Uganda. In contrast, only 13 per cent of refugees surveyed in Bidi Bidi Refugee settlement recently were able to access formal credit, with most of them depending on informal groups, which have their limitations, to meet their financial needs,” she said.
“With FI4R we are working with implementing partners such as Equity Bank, VisionFund Uganda and Rural Focus Initiative Uganda [RUFI] to develop products. We also have our learning partner with a purpose to understand the lifestyle and behavior of refugees so that so that the products that we have produced are specific to their lifestyle and be able to build then so that we can not only give them access but they are also able to use them.”
Commenting on the launch event of the project, Mark Napier, CEO, FSD Africa said, “Refugees are some of the most vulnerable communities in the world, but with the right support, they can be empowered to earn an income and support their families.”
Rashmi Pillai, Executive Director, FSD Uganda explained,“Forcibly displaced people remain one of the most vulnerable groups in Uganda, and they continue to remain underserved by financial service providers. Access to relevant financial tools will ensure that refugees are able to integrate with host.”
The FI4R project also includes a landmark study that will track the income and spending habits of refugees to improve the products and services financial service providers deliver to refugees in Uganda.
Through the study, refugees living in Bidi Bidi, Palorinya, Nakivale and Kampala will use diaries over the next 12 months to create a detailed picture of the financial strategies employed by refugees to build their livelihoods and manage their finances.
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