Finance for Refugees

8 October, 2018

Original Source: E-MFP

Finance for Refugees: how to make it work?


On 7 September 2018, NpM, Platform for Inclusive Finance (NpM) hosted the conference ‘’Finance for Refugees; making it work’’. Almost 200 guests from over 20 countries came together to exchange knowledge and expertise, form partnerships and explore solutions on offering financial services to refugees. During the conference NpM launched a publication, Finance for Refugees: the state of play , authored by Lene M.P. Hansen. It provides an overview of the global potential market scope of refugees as well as a review of the sector’s progress in the past few years. Remaining barriers are briefly described, including policy clarity, relevant information, legal barriers and 

With almost 28 million refugees, the migrant crisis to date is one of the most urgent and compelling realities affecting the world. Most refugees have little to no opportunities to enter the economic system and integrate in society, mainly due to a lack of appropriate financial services. The industry has only very recently begun to recognise the specific constraints faced by non-citizens. Within this large group of potential clients, forcibly displaced people, including refugees, are often the least served. How can we, as the Financial Inclusion sector, contribute to the solution? Access to financial services, such as cash transfers and loans, can offer people the possibility to start building their lives again. This can offer a feeling of dignity allowing them to take control of their own future.

Workshop Jordan

On 4 and 5 July 2018, NpM and Triodos Investment Management held a 2-day workshop and roundtable discussion for Jordanian and Lebanese Financial Service Providers (FSPs), investors and funders from the MENA region. As a first-time opportunity to come together, the workshop exchanged knowledge and discussed possibilities, obstacles and required interventions to financially include refugees. The main obstacles highlighted by almost all the MFIs include external and internal issues, such as: (1) Currently an unsupportive enabling environment and, on an institutional level, (2) A lack of operational know-how (how to segment, how to adapt current policies and product portfolio, how to organise risk management?).

Research in Uganda

NpM and its members conducted a diagnostic research with their clients in Uganda. The research identifies the necessary interventions and possible TA to enable four FSPs to successfully offer financial services to refugees. It includes analyses of demand and supply side, an institutional assessment and advances the business case for financing refugees. At least 11.2 million adult refugees have been in their countries of exile long enough to be fully assimilated and ready to re-build their lives. They need similar financial services as the native population, such as saving products, payment, credit and remittance services.

Finance for Refugees – main findings


An important finding is that, across borders, refugee customers of FSPs perform as well or better than nationals in terms of loan repayment. Data on client performance can help FSPs define the business case to serve refugees. While legal and policy barriers remain, the biggest constraint to financial inclusion of refugees lies in deep-seated stereotypes. These and other preconceived ideas ensure a persisting disconnect between refugees and FSPs. Many FSPs continue to be constrained by a lack of (easy) access to information, guidance and support which is needed to identify, assess, and potentially serve refugees as customers. Through customized support to FSPs, we can jointly work towards further increasing financial inclusion of refugees.

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