The study by the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford focuses on Uganda – a country where refugees have greater freedoms than elsewhere to move around and work. It finds that this has enabled many refugees to make their own way in the business world. They are often highly networked individuals, using mobile phones and the internet to run businesses, sometimes even having global trade networks.
Far from being exclusively dependent on aid, 99% of the refugees said they were earning their own income. In the capital city Kampala, 78% receive no international aid at all. Meanwhile, 40% of refugees who were employers provided work for Ugandan nationals, and nearly half (43%) of the employed refugees living in Kampala worked for Ugandan nationals. The report argues this shows that refugees can bring economic benefits to their host country, contradicting a widely held view that refugees are just a drain on a receiving nation’s resources.
Researchers visited three areas in 2013: two refugee settlements (Nakivale and Kyangwali) as well as Kampala. In addition to qualitative studies, the researchers conducted surveys with 1,593 refugees in Uganda. The researchers also interviewed Ugandan nationals, government officials, business representatives, and staff from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.