2020-Michelle Richey

Facilitating impact and transferability for refugee entrepreneurship interventions in Africa

Principal Investigator: Dr Michelle Richey (Loughborough University)

Co-Investigators: Prof M.N. Ravishankar (Loughborough University), Prof Monder Ram OBE (Aston University), Dr Raymond Randall (University of Sheffield)


Project summary:

Around 22 million of the worlds displaced people live in refugee camps. Designed to provide temporary relief during crises, there is mounting strain on camps as increasing numbers of residents have no viable route home. The average time in camp is now more than 20 years and entire generations grow up in these spaces. Mounting global instability adds to the urgent need for innovation in camps and people residing there yearn for greater opportunities and freedoms. Accounts of camp life have critiqued the suppression of agency that can undermine opportunities for residents to rebuild their lives (de la Chaux & Haugh, 2018, 2020; Chowdhury, 2021). However, there are also reports of vibrant, largely informal marketplaces operating despite day-to-day restrictions (IFC, 2018). Since residents are already pursuing opportunities to improve their lives, a better understanding of how camps can incorporate opportunity focused initiatives that complement their humanitarian missions is timely.

To this end, we examine an initiative that encompasses values of opportunity, capacity building and sustainability led by Inkomoko (formerly AEC); a business support and loans initiative in East Africa. We follow their expansion from Rwanda to Kenya and investigate the kinds of impacts the program is having on businesses and livelihoods. We detail the new opportunities emerging during the program, as well as longer term growth and change flowing after the program. We discuss the theoretical implication of these findings which indicate hopeful trajectories from necessity towards opportunity. We make a number of policy recommendations in an open access report which can be found here: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/media/wwwlboroacuk/external/content/schoolsanddepartments/sbe/sbewebsite/downloads/events/Power%20of%20Nurturing%20Refugee%20Businesses%209.pdf