While humanitarian assistance has effectively supported displaced populations in emergencies, a different approach is needed involving new actors, predominantly the private sector in contributing to sustainable solutions for refugees and displaced persons.
It is against this background that the Amahoro Coalition and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have convened the inaugural ‘36 Million Solutions: Africa Private Sector Forum on Forced Displacement’ taking place in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda from 30th November to 2nd December 2021.
The Amahoro Coalition is an African-led initiative convening multi-sector actors from across the region to accelerate private sector leadership in driving sustainable market-based interventions that advance economic inclusion for displaced populations.
Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees and the pledges made at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum, the event brings together Africa’s private sector firms to explore solutions that promote economic inclusion for Africa’s forcibly displaced persons and their host communities.
The Forum’s theme, 36 Million Solutions, references the number of people forced to flee across the region and the opportunities to invest in their potential.
Alongside private sector leaders, the Forum brings together refugees and displaced persons, government representatives, and humanitarian actors to actualize a multi-stakeholder Pan-African approach to the displacement crisis.
Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR Director of the Regional Bureau for the East, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes said that the number of displaced persons and refugees has been on high rise for the past ten years.
The issue is mainly reported in Central African Republic, South Sudan, Burundi and Mozambique.
She said that African countries should not perceive refugees as a burden but rather an investment opportunity.
Salami thanked Rwanda and Djibouti for achieved milestone towards the cause and urged the private sector to work with Governments and other organizations to support refugees and displaced persons.
Also present, was Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente who officially opened the forum on behalf of President Paul Kagame on Wednesday 1st December 2021.
As he delivered remarks, Premier Ngirente highlighted that the number of refugees and displaced persons continues to increase particularly in Sub-Sahara African countries and shared needed actions to manage refugee crisis.
“Forced displacement has reached its highest level in Africa. Statistics indicate that in 2020, the number of displaced people in Sub-Saharan Africa reached an alarming record of 35.9 million people, representing 45% of the total number of refugees globally,” he said.
Reports from SOS Children’s Village, the world’s largest non-governmental organization focused on supporting children without parental care and families at risk, show that poverty is among six major reasons behind increasing number of African refugees.
Other causes include armed conflicts and climate change.
Premier Ngirente went on to explain that efficient use of available resources is of critical significance to solve the issue of economic refugees.
“As it is well documented, Africa has a significant economic potential which, if well exploited, the continent can at least minimize the number of economic refugees by giving different opportunities to our youth,” he said.
Dr. Ngirente urged the private sector to contribute to the creation of jobs to tackle unemployment among the youth.
“It is therefore our responsibility to work closely with the private sector to use properly these resources by creating enough jobs for our youth. This will economically and socially empower them to address the issue of their risky migration to other continents,” he noted.
Also top on the forum’s agenda, is to explore solutions that promote economic inclusion for Africa’s forcibly displaced persons and their host communities.
Dr. Ngirente stressed that facilitating refugees’ access to the job market, decreases their dependence on aid and help the host economy to tap into full potential of their skills and consumption.
Premier Ngirente also shared Rwanda’s efforts in supporting refugees and asylum seekers to lead dignified life.
“About 10% of refugees in Rwanda live in urban areas, while the remaining 90% are settled in 5 camps across the country. We all know that receiving refugees is one good thing but ensuring that they live in conditions of dignity is another,” he said.
Dr. Ngirente revealed that all refugees aged 16 years and above, like any other Rwandan, have been issued with ID card to enable them get access to various services.
Today, there are 55,000 refugee students enrolled in various education levels in Rwanda, from early childhood, to primary through secondary schools. In addition, more than 500 refugees are currently enrolled in different universities under several scholarship programs.
Regarding the access to healthcare, in collaboration with The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), all camp-based refugees receive healthcare services at no cost. Those settled in urban areas are enrolled in the National Community-Based Health Insurance Scheme known as Mutuelle de santé.
Through Government of Rwanda, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and their partners, various projects owned by refugees and host communities have been funded whereby cash grants are extended to refugees to support their livelihood activities including money to start small businesses and to improve their agricultural activities.
Premier Ngirente reiterated Rwanda’s commitment to continue playing its role by ensuring refugee protection, security and social economic inclusion.
Rwanda accommodates over 148,938 refugees from different countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo (51%) and Burundi (48%).