About the project | Refugee Economics
A reporting project investigating the economic impact of refugee crises.
refugee, refugees, economics, humanitarian, foreign aid, migration, displacement,
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Around 65.3 million people around the globe have been forced out of their homes by conflict or natural disasters, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), including 21.3 million refugees and 3.2 million asylum seekers (those who have applied for refugee status). These unplanned movements of populations have profound social and economic consequences for the regions and countries to which displaced people flee, impacting job markets, housing, consumption, public resources, trade, and more.

These consequences aren’t necessarily negative. Refugees and other displaced populations can stimulate consumption, create jobs for themselves and others and actively participate in expanding trade networks, for instance, as shown by various research outlined in the Library section of this website. Yet very little is known about the true impact of refugees on local and national economies, leaving governments and humanitarian agencies uncertain about shaping efficient policies and programs, and citizens with no answers to their questions about the cost of hosting refugees.

The Sarafina supermarket, run by Ethiopian refugees, is one of Kakuma’s largest stores. Its shelves are stocked with school supplies, house supplies, tableware, clothes, baby products and more. © Hubert Hayaud

What we do

This project aims at documenting the daily lives of refugees as they must find ways to support themselves and their families in refugee camps and cities. We also look at the latest research emerging from universities and research centres, while analysing the effect of international and national policies as humanitarian programs on the refugees’ ability to work and do business. We write articles, organize photography exhibitions, create social media campaigns, and participate in discussions and debates. This website also includes a library of research documents (academic papers, reports, etc.) used to support our understanding of refugee economies.

The NGO YARID (Young African Refugees For Integral Development) has set up a tailoring workshop for Congolese refugee women in Nsambya, Kampala, to facilitate income generation through tailoring. © Anne Ackermann

Our journey

Our reporting took place in the Spring of 2016 in Uganda and Kenya, two countries located in East Africa that have both historically received refugees from neighbouring countries – mainly Somalia, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi – and dealt with internal displacement due to civil conflict.

Kenya hosts two of the world’s largest refugee camps – Dadaab and Kakuma. While the country has tried to keep its refugees confined within these camps, an increasing number of people are opting to live in cities in search of better opportunities. We visited the capital, Nairobi, notably the Eastleigh neighbourhood, where many refugees and migrants live. We also travelled to Kakuma, in the northwestern part of the country.

Uganda has had a different approach to refugee-hosting. In lieu of camps, the country has been setting up “settlements” in rural areas. National laws also grant refugees the right to work and move freely, although our reporting has shown these rights are not always applied. We visited the capital Kampala, as well as the Nakivale settlement in the South East of Uganda, near the border with DR Congo and Rwanda.

A phone-charging business in the Kakuma refugee camp, its wall decorated with a flag of South Sudan. © Hubert Hayaud