Dr. James Mwangi, the Managing Director and CEO of Equity Group, has advocated for the equitable provision of essential services and opportunities to refugees in Africa.
He made this call at the 2nd edition of the Amaharo Refugee Forum, a platform that brings together stakeholders to discuss and address the challenges and opportunities of refugee integration in Africa.
The forum was held in Accra, Ghana, from November 2 to 4, 2023.
The rise of internal and cross-border conflicts across the continent and the world has affected millions of people.
While humanitarian agencies and responsible governments have done their best to limit the impact on victims of forceful displacements, strategic and coordinated efforts need to be initiated to protect affected persons.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 108 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide in 2022 due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, and disturbances in public order. About 74% of the displaced persons were hosted in low- and middle-income countries.
Dr James Mwangi is adamant that the equitable provision of key essential services to refugees across the continent will be crucial in creating opportunities for wealth creation.
“Equity is partnering with UNHCR in line with our purpose, which is to transform lives, give dignity and expand opportunities for wealth creation. We have realized that the surest way of integrating refugees with host communities is to build programs for them beyond social safety net payments.
The issue of refugees is too big for individual governments and requires coordinated efforts from the private sector,” said Dr Mwangi at the Amaharo Refugee Forum.
Within the East Africa region, Equity Bank continues to provide inclusive financial services to thousands of refugees and forcefully displaced persons (FDPs) living in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the DRC.
The bank has been able to sustainably provide a wide range of services to refugees and host communities. The services provided by the bank include access to savings, credit, payments, insurance, and investment opportunities.
Under the bank’s financial inclusion agenda, the bank has been able to support refugees living in some of the biggest refugee camps on the continent, including the Kakuma and Daadab refugee camps.
The coordination between partners and key stakeholders has seen a deeper penetration of services to refugee communities. This has been key to integrating them more meaningfully into society.
Equity’s key partners in this regard include UNHCR, – which has worked closely with the bank to develop mechanisms to enhance the recognition of refugees by host countries, and IFC to provide risk-sharing guarantees.
“We chose to integrate refugees into our banking activities. We are now providing them with savings, provide them with loans, and enhance their capacity through financial training and entrepreneurship.
We have worked closely with UNHCR to enhance mechanisms for integration of refugees into society,” added Dr Mwangi
As one of the largest banks on the continent with assets valued at more than Kshs. 1.3 trillion, Equity continues to play a key role in ensuring financial inclusion and social protection on the continent.
Fostering integration and social cohesion between refugees and their host communities through social impact investments and livelihood opportunities has been key to promoting self-reliance and economic independence for displaced persons.