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Kakuma refugee camp consumer market worth Sh6b: IFC study

The study finds that the refugee camp, with a population of 180,000 refugees, has a vibrant, informal private sector including more than 2,000 shops run by refugees and local Kenyans/COURTESY

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 7 – Kakuma Refugee Camp has a Sh6 billion consumer market according to a study conducted by World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

The study finds that the refugee camp, with a population of 180,000 refugees, has a vibrant, informal private sector including more than 2,000 shops run by refugees and local Kenyans.

The economy of the 25-year-old refugee camp and neighboring towns is fueled by consumer goods and food with nearly 70 percent of residents owning a cell phone, making it a potentially attractive market for mobile banking.

“Conflict, violence, and persecution are driving more people from their homes than at any time since World War Two,” said IFC Chief Executive Officer Philippe Le Houérou. “Government aid to tackle the challenge is limited. Private sector investment could make an important difference—by creating jobs and opportunities for refugees. But investors often lack the critical information they need to venture into these markets. This study is a key first step to boost private investment into an untapped market.”

The study finds that private sector engagement in refugee settings can promote self-reliance and socio-economic integration between refugees and host communities, thus empowering them both.

Although many refugees in the camp still rely primarily on humanitarian aid, the study says that attracting new private investors could provide long-term solutions for refugees by supporting local businesses and thus increasing work opportunities.

Engagement of the private sector could further expand the prospects for providing sustainable improved services in the areas of healthcare, energy, education, and also reduce prices, provide more choices and strengthen self-reliance among refugees.

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