Equity Bank provides banking products and services to thousands of refugees in Northern Kenya in its quest to enhance financial inclusion
They have been trekking for hundreds of kilometres. Some are trudging along with their small ones. Often they have dodged bullets, braved nights in the jungle or have been running away from starvation and hunger. These are refugees. They make for horrifying photos.
But that is just the beginning of their story. They still have life ahead in the host country.
In Kenya, precisely Kakuma and Dadaab Refugee Camps, Equity Bank has proved that refugees can be mainstreamed into local life to the last mile. They can be banked. In fact, better still, they can provide banking services. But first let’s retrace our steps.
Equity Bank started by partnering with UNHCR and World Food Programme (WFP) to facilitate cash-based assistance for refugees. This service came via debit cards linked to bank accounts where aid organizations deposited refugee benefits. The leading bank then had to adapt its standard products to the refugee context by creating sub-accounts within refugee accounts to accommodate cash transfers from different humanitarian aid organizations.
With its long experience of dealing with refugees, Equity Bank is better placed to understand their needs and tailor the right solutions for them.
In fact, out of the 60 Equity Bank agents within the region, about 20 are refugees. So while some countries like Uganda have made commendable strides by giving refugees land to till, grow crops and establish dwellings, the Equity Bank model of banking the refugee is a new one not only in Africa but elsewhere as well.
It has been said that inclusion must go beyond merely being invited to the party. One must be given a chance on the dance floor.
The moment a refugee has his freedom to handle his own money and access credit, his innate potential is unleashed and he becomes a useful member of society. This not only dulls the pangs of his misery, but makes him a useful member of the host society as well.