The refugee economy generates resources for the local population of Uganda


Despite limited resources, Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, hosts 1.5 million refugees from across Africa, including South Sudan, Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea and Sudan. So far, this has not caused much resentment among the local population.

In fact, according to Ugandan officials, government policy requires aid agencies to spend 30% of funds in areas adjacent to refugee camps; This helped prevent xenophobic tendencies. Sheikh Zachary Bagoma, for example, told Anadolu Agency that those who live near a refugee camp in Kiigwa have benefited from the presence of the refugees.

“We have benefited from the infrastructure that has been created thanks to the refugee camp in our area,” Paguma explained. “Now we have good roads, schools and hospitals.”

Located about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the capital, Kampala, Kyegegwa hosts refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Denis Mwensa, 29, a Congolese refugee who now sells watches, necklaces and women’s bags. Kyegegwa became his home.

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“I live a more comfortable life here than in the Congo jungle, where rebels and militia attack villages whenever they want,” he told Anadolu Agency. “In the camp we have all the basic needs. We have hospitals, schools and a police station. They also give us money to buy food.”

Mwensa said UNHCR had been providing them with food before, but now they are receiving the money. After saving some of the money they give her every month to buy food, she was able to start her own business.

Program Director of Young African Refugees for Integrated Development Fidele Kabini noted that each refugee receives 70,000 Ugandan shillings ($20) per month from the UN food procurement agency. Burundian refugee William Wimana uses the money to buy food and some basic necessities for his family of five. “We receive 350,000 Ugandan shillings ($98) and budget carefully so that the money lasts for the whole month,” he said.

Various UN agencies spent $160.17 million on refugees in Uganda last year. To this must be added donations from countries to help the homeless. Japan donated $9.8 million in April of this year, Sweden gave $1.2 million in July, while Germany contributed $4.4 million.

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David Mucinzi, an economist in Kampala, said that although this money is intended for refugees, it is spreading to keep the local economy afloat. “A lot of people who live near refugee camps are benefiting because refugees buy most of what they need.” This was confirmed by Ambrose Akaga, an elected member of West Kikobe District Council. “Money paid to refugees to buy food ends up in circulation locally and ends up in the hands of local residents, who sell food and other essential items.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said recently that he was living as a refugee in the past, so his country welcomes those who have been forced to leave their homes. He was the last to arrive from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of it in August.

Turkey tops the list of refugee hosting countries, with 3.7 million people. followed by Colombia with 1.7 million; Uganda is in third place, with 1.5 million.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of East Monitor.

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