The International Finance Corporation (IFC) released a consumer and market study “Kakuma as a Market Place” on May 4th. It looks at the Kakuma refugee camp and neighbouring town from the perspective of a private firm looking to enter a new market. The study includes a survey of 1,400 households in the Kakuma refugee camp and neighbouring town. It finds that there are more than 2,000 businesses and smalls shops in Kakuma, and that the area’s economy is worth 6 billion shillings (US$56 million).
According to the study, half of household incomes is spent on consumers products, a market worth more than US $26 million per year. Data was collected on business ownership, consumption levels and access to finance, telecommunications, education and employment. The findings show Kakuma’s economy is thriving and there are opportunities for the private sector to invest in ventures in the refugee and host communities, which promote self-reliance and independence from humanitarian aid, as envisaged in the comprehensive refugee response framework, which is currently being rolled-out in Kenya.
Commercial and financial data is necessary for private sector engagement, but there is seldom information available on refugees outside of academic, development, and humanitarian studies. The study might lay the foundation for private initiatives to harness and strengthen the existing business opportunities in Kakuma to the benefit of the refugees and the host community – and for refugees to lead self-determined lives.
“We need to change the mindset that refugees are sitting at the camp, doing nothing but receiving assistance,” says Raouf Mazou, UNHCR Representative for Kenya.
“Many of them are, in fact, running businesses and creating jobs for others, and doing other important things to formalize their enterprises. We tend to see the private sector as something sophisticated, coming from outside, but most times, it is built on initiatives of individuals who want to make money using what they know best, like a refugee who bakes bread.”
Read the UNHCR story here.