JOHANNESBURG – The European Partnership last week strengthened the access to financial inclusion for refugee communities living across the East African country of Uganda, opening economic opportunities for thousands of refugees and Ugandans living in communities that host refugees.
This follows a two-week nationwide financial inclusion initiative, part of the European Investment Bank’s ongoing support to strengthen private sector investment and entrepreneurship across Africa through new financing and training to improve both financial sector best practice and business skills.
Under the partnership between Centenary Bank, Uganda’s leading commercial microfinance bank, and the European Investment Bank, the world’s largest international public bank, more than one thousand people have received intensive training in key business and financial skills over the last two weeks.
Developed in coordination with Ugandan authorities and international partners the scheme will improve financial and business skills in communities in the north, west and south of Uganda that host the largest number of refugees as well as the capital Kampala.
“Enabling all Ugandans and people living in Uganda to access financial services is crucial for economic prosperity in this country,” said Fabian Kasi, Managing Director of Centenary Bank.
“Reaching out to refugee communities is already improving business skills and financial literacy and ensuring better use of mobile banking technologies that reflects Centenary Bank’s commitment to financial inclusion. We value the contribution of all Ugandan and international partners involved with this unique initiative.”
European Investment Bank regional representative for East Africa, Catherine Collin also praised the initiative.
“The European Investment Bank is committed to strengthening private sector investment across Africa. Uganda is leading efforts to accelerate financial inclusion amongst rural, remote and refugee communities. As the EU Bank, the EIB is pleased to strengthen our close cooperation with Centenary Bank to ensure that entrepreneurial activity can be supported across the country, including those who have been forced to flee their homes.”
Entrepreneurs in nine districts across the country participated in workshops supported by the Office of the Prime Minister, United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the European Union. The engagement targeted both refugee and Ugandans active seeking to expand economic activity across a range of sectors.
The involvement of different stakeholders ensured that registered refugees, women and established entrepreneurs could benefit from targeted training based on relevant case studies.
Head of a diplomatic mission of the European Union Delegation to Uganda, Ms. Anna Merrifield said, “Uganda has shown leadership and compassion welcoming people displaced from neighbouring countries. The European Union welcomes the pro-active engagement of Ugandan, European and international partners to strengthen financial inclusion and private sector activities in communities welcoming refugees.”
UNHCR Representative, Joel Boutroue said, “Financial inclusion and financial literacy will be transformative for refugees and hosting communities in Uganda, the largest refugee hosting country in Africa. The specific refugee hosting model in Uganda is geared towards socio-economic empowerment, therefore cash transfer programming and financial inclusion will increasingly become an important component of the refugee response to Uganda.”
The Ugandan programme will to help entrepreneurs to expand business activity, reduce unemployment in rural communities and improve access to loans by both refugees and host communities.
Uganda hosts more than 1.3 million refugees and asylum-seekers, representing the third largest number of refugees in the world. The Ugandan initiative with Centenary Bank represents the first time that business skill training has focused on refugee communities.
The Ugandan refugee financial inclusion programme follows dedicated training by the European Investment Bank and local partners to improve financial and business skills in the region. An estimated 10,000 bank staff and 20,000 entrepreneurs across East Africa have benefited from the training over the last five years.
The training session, provided under the EIB Technical Assistance programme for banks and financial institutions in East Africa, has been led in Uganda by AFC Agriculture and Finance Consultants.
In 2017, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that 86% of the refugees in Uganda were women and children and that most of them were from war-torn South Sudan.
The body also noted that since violence erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, more than 1.8 million people had crossed into neighboring countries.