In a Kenyan Refugee Camp, Business Ideas but Little Access to Credit
By Anthony Langat
It’s lunchtime, and customers are streaming into Gilbert Munyeneza’s small café off one of the busy main streets of the Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya.
It’s a simple corrugated iron structure with wooden benches, but there’s a flat-screen TV blaring Swahili music videos and it offers a decent menu of chapati, ugali (maize meal), or rice, served with a choice of beans, beef, chicken, or vegetables.
The café, just three months old, is an example of how refugees’ lives can be changed dramatically just by having access to more flexible financing.
Refugee camps like Kakuma are effectively large towns with their own mini-economies. Although remote, Kakuma has a population of more than 185,000 people. Refugees here come from many backgrounds, and money circulates as they take on casual odd jobs – from construction to washing clothes – or start small businesses.
Gilbert exemplifies the entrepreneurial drive of so many refugees, despite their circumstances. He was only 12 when he escaped the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed nearly one million people. Separated from his father in Burundi, he went to a refugee camp in neighbouring Tanzania, before finally arriving in Kakuma in 2000.
Photo courtesy of Internews Europe.