Lack of accurate data on a shifting population, and changing definitions of refugee and stateless people, are challenges for financial services providers attempting to craft services for this unique and challenging population. In Africa, the UN estimates 30% of the world’s refugee and displaced populations live in camps or other temporary establishments and communities. While numbers vary, the estimate is that between 18 and 22 million adults and children are refugees in Africa.
Collaborative groups of private sector financial services providers, NGOs, development partners, and government and regulatory agencies have attempted to address challenges and craft solutions. In addition to lack of accurate data about the population to be served, poor telecom, electricity, and transportation infrastructure provides a significant challenge to providing services in both refugee camps and host communities. Language can be a significant barrier for a number of services, and financial literacy is seen as generally poor. Know your client structures, such as letters of introduction and a physical address, are challenging for this population, and most do not have credit scoring that travels with them.
Initial efforts in Africa have focused on the complex and expensive infrastructure development that needs to be done to meet many human services needs, in addition to financial inclusion efforts. Both infrastructure and technology development has helped some of the older refugee camps become stable and provide education, health care, and other needed services. In areas of political instability and conflict, however, these efforts at infrastructure development cannot proceed safely.
The UN is spearheading efforts, but many communities are also looking at a different approach, growing needed infrastructure and services from the host community first, then expanding to reach the refugee populations, before moving into larger population hubs. This approach, from the ground up, allows services to be crafted specifically for a population to be served, and can address issues such as language differences. In addition, consortiums and collaborative efforts between stakeholders have allowed some regulatory changes to make services available to this challenging population.
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