KAMPALA – Economic opportunities for thousands of refugees living across Uganda and Ugandans living in communities that host refugees will be strengthened following a two-week nationwide financial inclusion initiative that culminated in Kampala late last month.
Under the partnership between Centenary Bank, Uganda’s leading commercial microfinance bank, and the European Investment Bank, the world’s largest international public bank, more than one thousand people have received intensive training in key business and financial skills over the last two weeks.
Developed in coordination with Ugandan authorities and international partners the scheme will improve financial and business skills in communities in the north, west and south of Uganda that host the largest number of refugees as well as the capital Kampala.
“Enabling all Ugandans and people living in Uganda to access financial services is crucial for economic prosperity in this country. Reaching out to refugee communities is already improving business skills and financial literacy and ensuring better use of mobile banking technologies that reflects Centenary Bank’s commitment to financial inclusion. We value the contribution of all Ugandan and international partners involved with this unique initiative.”, said Mr. Fabian Kasi, Managing Director of Centenary Bank.
“The European Investment Bank is committed to strengthening private sector investment across Africa. Uganda is leading efforts to accelerate financial inclusion amongst rural, remote and refugee communities. As the EU Bank, the EIB is pleased to strengthen our close cooperation with Centenary Bank to ensure that entrepreneurial activity can be supported across the country, including those who have been forced to flee their homes.”, said Catherine Collin, European Investment Bank regional representative for East Africa.
Centenary Bank currently serves 1.5 million customers, representing a quarter of Uganda’s commercial banking public.
Ensuring financial inclusion of refugee communities across Uganda
Entrepreneurs in nine districts across the country participated in workshops supported by the Office of the Prime Minister, United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the European Union. The engagement targeted both refugee and Ugandans active seeking to expand economic activity across a range of sectors. The involvement of different stakeholders ensured that registered refugees, women and established entrepreneurs could benefit from targeted training based on relevant case studies.
“Uganda has shown leadership and compassion welcoming people displaced from neighbouring countries. The European Union welcomes the pro-active engagement of Ugandan, European and international partners to strengthen financial inclusion and private sector activities in communities welcoming refugees.” said Ms. Anna Merrifield, Chargée d’affaires of the European Union Delegation to Uganda.
“Financial inclusion and financial literacy will be transformative for refugees and hosting communities in Uganda, the largest refugee hosting country in Africa. The specific refugee hosting model in Uganda is geared towards socio-economic empowerment, therefore cash transfer programming and financial inclusion will increasingly become an important component of the refugee response to Uganda.” said UNHCR Representative, Mr. Joel Boutroue.
Dedicated training sessions here held in Isingiro, Kamwenge, Hoima, Masindi, Adjumani, Arua, Koboko, Yumbe and Kampala.
The Ugandan programme will to help entrepreneurs to expand business activity, reduce unemployment in rural communities and improve access to loans by both refugees and host communities.
Uganda hosts more than 1.3 million refugees and asylum-seekers, representing the third largest number of refugees in the world. The Ugandan initiative with Centenary Bank represents the first time that business skill training has focused on refugee communities.
Expanding business training to refugee communities
The Ugandan refugee financial inclusion programme follows dedicated training by the European Investment Bank and local partners to improve financial and business skills in the region. An estimated 10,000 bank staff and 20,000 entrepreneurs across East Africa have benefited from the training over the last five years.
The training session, provided under the EIB Technical Assistance programme for banks and financial institutions in East Africa, has been led in Uganda by AFC Agriculture and Finance Consultants.
Key initiative to strengthen financial inclusion across Africa
The Ugandan scheme is part of the European Investment Bank’s ongoing support to strengthen private sector investment and entrepreneurship across Africa through new financing and training to improve both financial sector best practice and business skills.
Since 2007 the European Investment Bank has made available EUR 1 billion for private sector investment in East Africa through credit lines in both local and international currency in partnership with 40 banks and financial institutions active in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. This has supported new investment by entrepreneurs and companies active in trade, agri-business, fishing, food processing, manufacturing/ industry, construction, transport, tourism, and services.
The EIB has included EUR 193 million of new financing programmes available through 11 Ugandan financial institutions. This comprises more than EUR 28 million of financing for small and medium sized companies and microfinance beneficiaries in Uganda through Centenary Bank.
In the last decade, the EIB has provided more than EUR 6 billion for private sector investment across Africa through lending programmes managed by local banks and financial institutions.
In 2014, the EIB set up the Eastern African Banks Capacity Building project and contracted project implementation in Uganda to AFC Agriculture and Finance Consultants