Financial institutions and telecommunication firms are set to take their products and services to refugee camps in Rwanda.
The move initiated by the Ministry of Emergency Management and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), means that refugees will now have access to financial services such as bank accounts, mobile wallets, consumer loans and savings scheme among others.
It is part the strategy to promote self-reliance among refugee and boosting financial inclusion among vulnerable communities.
With the new initiative, government and UNHCR hope that refugees and neighbouring communities will reach their productive potential.
Arifur Rahman, the UNHCR Livelihoods Officer said that the development comes at th time the UN body is shifting its approach to giving refugees cash as opposed to donating food and non-food items.
“We can therefore address this issue through such solutions leveraging on the demand from the shift to cash instead of food and non-food items, to empower the refugees’ economic situation,” Rahman said
This initiative will see a local financial service provider, Umutanguha Finance Company Ltd, and a mobile operator Airtel/Tigo develop and provide digital financial services targeting refugees in the country
It will boost efforts to graduate some 18,000 camp-based refugees from food and/or cash for food assistance programmes and providing access to formal employment opportunities for up to 60,000 refugees.
Mr. Amit Chawla, the Airtel Chief Executive Officer said: “We are going to provide an infrastructure to facilitate ‘pull and push’ functionality for refugee clients. We are therefore proud to be part of this project that will serve a unique segment as we continue to ensure innovation and inclusiveness.”
Roselyne Uwamahoro, the Head of SACCO’s and Savings Groups at Access to Finance (AFR), explained that the project will start with developing and offering two types of loans; digital consumption loan (little amount) and light touch loan for small scale businesses.
She further said that loan officers will be visiting the camps to carry out financial and non-financial assessment of the businesses in order to determine their credit worthiness.
In addition, financial institution and telecom firms will be encouraged to carryout financial awareness campaign as well as offering business clinics to refugees.