Continued collaboration between humanitarian and development partners as well as private sector players has played a key role in uplifting livelihoods of forcibly displaced persons who include refugees and IDPs. Through supporting their economic ventures and fostering social inclusion, the affected persons have become empowered.
These sentiments were relayed during a recent High-Level Workshop on the Financial Inclusion of Forcibly Displaced Persons at The Hague, Netherlands. Equity Bank was invited to the workshop by virtue of the fact that it was identified as a good case study on implementation of financial initiatives that support forcibly displaced persons especially refugees and IDPs to be economically self-reliant.
The workshop convened up to 80 participants representing financial regulators, supervisors and policymakers from G20 and non-G20 countries, humanitarian and development agencies, private sector including established industry players and new fintech innovators as well as academia. The workshop was under the G20’s Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) framework that was established to adopt financial inclusion of Forcefully Displaced People (FDPs) as a priority in 2017.
Speaking during the conference, Equity Bank Director of Special Projects, Mr. Allan Waititu noted that Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya has more than 30 humanitarian agencies that support the refugees and the host community. By partnering with these agencies, Equity Bank has become one of the very few banks worldwide that does Refugee Banking and allowing them to access the very same financial services as national citizens.
“Equity Bank, through its robust financial infrastructure of branches, Equity Agents and mobile banking as well as Social Payment Programmes has been at the fore front in partnering with the government in terms of embracing approaches that empower refugees to become economically independent especially at Kakuma Refugee Camp,” he said.
Equity Bank Kakuma branch opened its doors on 10th June 2014, after the Bank saw a financial need for the more than 300,000 people who used to travel more than 150km to Lodwar to access banking services.
Through research, the Bank realized that 20% of the refugees were involved in several business ventures either as individual business men/women, or as groups. Some of the businesses they were involved in are general shops, small hotels, tailoring business, small bread baking factories, small supermarkets, commercial farming via irrigation, supply of power to the camp via generators and transport via motorbikes and taxis to and from the camp.
Over 20,000 refugees were also employed by Humanitarian Agencies as workers and through Equity Bank; they could now be paid through formal accounts.
As from June 2015, the Bank in partnership with AAHI (Action for Africa Help International) started to lend money at the refugee camp. So far, over Kshs KSH 12M has been lent to over 50 groups and individuals through a revolving fund initiative desired to see most of the refugee gain self-reliance.
Apart from traditional banking services, Equity Bank is the only bank with a branch in Kakuma offering credit through Equitel, a mobile SIM-based platform. Additionally, the Bank offers credit to refugees in partnership with NGOs who select beneficiaries, disburse funds and manage the loans on behalf of Equity Bank.
“To resolve the lack of security or collateral, Equity Bank has invested in alternative credit appraisal based on other data such as savings account history. With the rise of digital finance, we are now able to reach customers in extremely remote locations without costly investments in brick and mortar branches,” Mr Waititu added.
The Bank also addresses some of the gaps by offering financial literacy programmes on business management skills, budgeting and how to market for their goods as well as basic economic concepts on how to use a variety of financial services. These include savings, bookkeeping and credit products, thus formalizing banking at the camp.
Equitel’s loan products have since emerged as the most common source of formal credit among Kenya’s refugee communities according to a recent report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) dubbed Kakuma as a Marketplace.
The recent 2018 workshop was similar to last year’s event held under Germany’s G20 presidency and sought to support the development of the G20 “Roadmap for Sustainable and Responsible Financial Inclusion of FDPs” and ensure that the perspectives of all relevant stakeholders was reflected.