Refugee livelihoods in Kampala, Nakivale and Kyangwali refugee settlements: Patterns of engagement with the private sector

from Refugee Studies Centre
Published on 30 Sep 2013 View Original

1 Introduction

Background of the Humanitarian Innovation Project This working paper is drawn from the seven-week mission in Uganda as a preliminary study of the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) based at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. HIP seeks to research the role of technology, innovation and the private sector in refugee assistance.

In our research, we focus on refugee livelihoods for several inter-related reasons. Despite growing academic work on refugee livelihoods, there has been little coherent research capturing and analysing existing practices, and identifying alternative approaches to livelihood development. Historically, many formal attempts to promote refugee livelihoods, or to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development approaches to refugees, have been state-led, often neglecting the role of the private sector and innovation as potential sources of solutions. We believe, however, that a better understanding of the role of the private sector, technology and innovation from a bottom-up perspective represents a crucial ‘missing link’ in better supporting sustainable livelihoods for refugees.

There is no universal definition for ‘the private sector.’ In this paper, the private sector is broadly defined as any businesses that are not owned by states – both formal and informal – at all levels from small-scale firms set up by refugee themselves to large global corporations, including for-profit and non-profit.

Case study country: Uganda

Our primary case study country is Uganda. Unlike many of its neighbours, which encamp refugees, the Ugandan government promotes the ‘self-reliance’ of refugees; this means that rather than limiting responses to refugees to humanitarian relief, a space is open for a development-based approach to refugee assistance (Betts 2012).

We conducted a one-month pilot research study on the livelihoods of refugees in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, between July and August 2012 (see Omata 2012). In order to provide a comparative perspective to our initial Kampala-based finding, our research sites have been expanded to both Nakivale and Kyangwali refugee settlements. The on-going comparative case studies of three research sites allow us to explore a range of variables (i.e. urban/rural, settlement/non-settlement, regulatory frameworks and nationality) to explain variation in the nature and depth of refugees’ engagement with the private sector, innovation and technology.

The duration of the whole project is initially two years, until August 2014, with the majority of fieldwork in Uganda expected to take place between March and November 2013.