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Refugees’ finance in the COVID-19 pandemic period and beyond
The UNHCR Rwanda counts around 150,000 refugees hosted by Rwanda in camps. The Mahama camp which is the largest in the country is home to over 61,000 refugees from Burundi. For many Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs), a stay in refuge could last longer than 15 years. Yet, despite a steadfast and significant participation in the socio-economic activities of their host communities through education, small scale businesses, and casual labours, access to formal financial services for refugees in Rwanda was almost inexistent until recently.
Although, it has been a long journey to introduce financial inclusion for the refugees’ population due to regulatory policies, risk management, identification, and compliance constraints in the banking sector, refugees in Rwanda are improving their lives financially and contributing to the overall development of the country.
In response to the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR Economic Inclusion of Refugees and Host Communities Strategy (2016-2020), AFR in partnership with FSD Africa and Bankable Frontiers Associates (BFA) conducted a research study in 2018 that aimed at understanding refugees and their finances in relation to the host populations. The results of the study proved a business case to Financial Services Providers (FSPs) that this segment is bankable and attractive. Whether it is receiving aid through payment cards, remittances, mobile money or cash payment in the camps or their surrounding business centres, the study showed that refugees are actively involved in monetary transactions and business routines as much as their neighbours in host communities. Therefore, their income, expenses, and savings deserve to be managed through a formal banking system.
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