Financial Inclusion for Refugees: A Strategic Collaboration to Provide Access

23 March, 2016

Serving refugees may be the next frontier for financial inclusion. With upwards of 20 million displaced people worldwide, refugees are in great need of financial services. Yet, most financial service providers (FSPs) believe that “refugee microfinance” is too risky, partly due to misconceptions. Many myths persist: refugees are dependent primarily on aid; they are physically isolated and don’t generate economic activity; they are purely burdensome to host economies; and they are technologically illiterate.

The SPTF, in partnership with the Livelihoods Unit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working to increase access to microfinance for refugees. The SPTF’s recent research suggests that many prevalent beliefs about refugees are inaccurate. In fact, significant numbers of refugees are engaged in diverse economic activities and are active participants in their host economies--as consumers, traders, employees, and providers of goods and services. The majority of refugees are settled in urban areas and many refugee camps are even hubs of commercial activity. Many refugees have and use cellular technology.

The SPTF is producing several knowledge products in 2016. The first is a recently published Case study on how MFI Al Majmoua successfully serves refugees in Lebanon. Next, the SPTF will produce Global Guidelines for FSPs Serving Refugees. Based on these guidelines, the SPTF will also offer training materials for FSPs and technical assistance providers who wish to learn best practice for providing financial services to refugees. Independent consultant Lene Hansen is leading this project.

Do you want to know more? Listen to the SPTF’s introductory webinar.


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