help refugees

How Private Sector Can Help Refugees?

Pioneering Study Examines How Private Sector Can Help Refugees in Africa, Middle East.

Refugee communities can be further supported by the expansion of formal financing and business opportunities, and increasingly investors, businesses and local communities are interested in participating or expanding their activities in these markets in the Middle East and Africa, according to a landmark study by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.

The studyconducted by IFC in partnership with The Bridgespan Groupexamined more than 170 private sector initiatives focused on refugees and host communities in Africa and the Middle East.  It found that 60 percent of surveyed companies expect to deepen their refugee-related engagements in the coming years. That is important, the report found, because private firms are well-placed to create the jobs and economic opportunities that many refugees desperately need.

“As forced displacement becomes increasingly protracted, longer-term development solutions must supplement humanitarian aid…This new study reveals how the private sector can play an important role by engaging refugees as employees, employers, producers, and customersand identifies ways to scale up these projects so that refugees can make greater economic contributions to their host communities, while becoming more self-reliant.”

Sérgio Pimenta, IFC’s Vice President for the Middle East and Africa

The report, the first of its kind, notes that because forcibly displaced persons often end up spending years in their host countries, they need jobs, financial services, and skills training. Private companies, from tech startups to credit card providers, are playing an important role in creating those opportunities, and they can do much more to help refugees, found the study, entitled Private Sector and Refugees: Pathways to Scale

The study highlights the activities of several companies, including Irisguard, a start-up that allows refugees in Jordan to pay for food with a simple eye scan; Sanivation, which employs refugees and host community members in Kenya, and Inyenyeri, which is helping to tackle pollution at a major refugee camp in Rwanda.

The study also found that firms can scale up their impact on refugees and host communities through innovative financial tools and products (like venture capital approaches), cross-sector partnerships, and better access to market information.

More than 68 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. The figure includes 25 million refugees and 40 million internally displaced persons. Some 85 percent of the world’s refugees are currently in low and middle-income countries, with the majority hosted in 10 countries across Africa and the Middle East.

Pathways to Scale follows another vanguard IFC study which looked at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya as a marketplace, and identified a growing $56 million consumer market.

About IFC
IFC—a sister organization of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in the toughest areas of the world. In fiscal year 2018, we delivered more than $23 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit