By Julie Zollmann and Catherine Wanjala
Throughout the course of 2020, our team set out to understand the financial lives of refugees in Kenya—focused mostly on Nairobi—exploring the possibilities for financial services to support refugees’ journeys towards resilience and self-reliance. Between March and November 2020, our team conducted three rounds of structured interviews with 73 refugee participants in Nairobi and collected 30 other financial autobiographies from refugees living outside the city, mostly in Kakuma.
Overwhelmingly, we heard that refugees are limited in their pursuit of financial health by Kenya’s delays and failures to ensure foundational rights, in particular free movement, de facto rights to work, efficient issuance of status and identity documents, unhindered access to mainstream financial services, and predictable paths to permanent solutions. In such an environment, financial services can have only limited impacts on livelihood outcomes. Further, the absence of these foundations creates specific challenges for refugees that go beyond those faced by Kenyans, who also face informality and low incomes.
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For questions, please reach out to Professor Kimberley Wilson at Kimberley.Wilson@tufts.edu.