Report: COVID-19 and refugees’ economic opportunities, financial services and digital inclusion

The Journeys Project is excited to share a report published with the International Rescue Committee. This report was the culmination of a collaboration between Tufts University, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, and the International Rescue Committee.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments worldwide have increased policy support for digital financial services, including by waiving fees and allowing remote onboarding to both allow for greater social distancing and support resilience in the midst of a major economic crisis.

This research report – based on findings in refugee contexts in Jordan, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia – finds that digital services such as mobile money can in theory be more accessible for refugees than standard bank accounts, in practice refugees continue to face barriers. These services are often new and underdeveloped and therefore untested, or refugees are only permitted a restricted form of access. Even though digital services are likely to become more important given the ‘new normal’ and continued need for socially distanced services, this transition is only starting, and refugees need to be included in mainstream and fully developed financial services. 
We therefore urge national governments and regulators, donors, humanitarians and financial service providers to address both structural and practical barriers to refugees’ financial and economic inclusion and consider their specific needs.

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