Betty G applauds refugees' contribution to local development in Ethiopia
In a recent visit to Ethiopia's Somali region, the UNHCR High Profile Supporter was inspired by refugees contributing to the local economy.
UNHCR High Profile Supporter Betty G meets women at a teachers' training college in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia.
© UNHCR/Helle Degn
Somali refugee, Musa Yussuf Burey has a big smile on his face. His furniture workshop in the Somali region of Ethiopia is doing well and business is booming. His employees – both refugees and Ethiopians – work side by side, producing and selling cupboards, shelves, beds and chairs to the two communities.
The growth of his business means that he no longer depends on humanitarian aid for his family’s sustenance.
“I’m now able to feed my children and provide them with a better education. I have a plan to help fellow refugees to become productive like me,” says the middle-aged father of five who’s already mulling the option of expanding his business to include an ice- cream shop and a construction materials store.
Ethiopian singer and UNHCR High Profile Supporter Betty G met Musa in Melkadida camp when she visited the Somali region where refugees and their Ethiopian hosts live and work together under innovative business schemes that are bringing economic benefits to both communities and helping to strengthen the bond between them.
“I have a plan to help fellow refugees to become productive like me.”
Musa showed Betty G around his workshop, opening and closing different closets and drawers as he explained to her about the business.
“By hiring Ethiopian workers and supplying the local market with furniture which would otherwise be purchased and transported from far away, Musa is positively contributing to the local economy in Melkadida,” said Betty G, adding that his story challenges the perception that refugees are a burden to their hosts.
Betty G also visited Hibo Adbi, a Somali refugee living in Melkdadida. Despite having a baby just the day before, Hibo was bustling with energy and happily invited Betty into her house to tell her about her business.
Hibo runs a cold drinks shop providing water, soft drinks and juices to the community around her. People often come here to relax and watch live European football on TV. Hibo told Betty G that she has a good number of customers from the refugee and host communities and is now able to provide for her family.
“I can give my four children three meals a day and have some extra money for their clothing,” said Hibo who runs the business with her husband’s support.
“I’m amazed by this strong woman - she is so powerful,” said Betty G. “Not only because she invites me to her house the day after giving birth but also because she has managed to build a successful business, benefitting both refugees and Ethiopians.”
The impetus for these and many other small businesses in the region comes from a microfinance project, funded by the IKEA Foundation, which has invested US$ 100 million over the last seven years to help refugees and Ethiopians thrive together.
Musa and Hibo borrowed US$ 787 and US$ 697 respectively from the three-year old financial institution and have already paid back their debts, with the option to borrow more based on viable business expansion plans.
“The visit to Melkadida has shown me how refugees can help contribute to the host communities if they are given the possibility to work.”
As a UNHCR High Profile Supporter, Betty G has visited several refugee camps and hosting communities since 2017. Her visit to Melkadida left her with a strong positive outlook on how refugees and host communities can benefit from each other.
“I’m proud to be part of UNHCR and the visit to Melkadida has shown me how refugees can help contribute to the host communalities if they are given the possibility to work. At the same time, refugees are able to build a dignified life and become self-reliant,” she said.
“What is happening in Melkadida is what the world wants to achieve under the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), adopted by the UN General Assembly last December,” added Clementine Nkweta Salami, UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia. “The GCR calls for inclusion of refugees in communities where they reside and greater global support for countries like Ethiopia that continue to welcome and host them.”
The Melkadida area in the Somali region of Ethiopia hosts more than 200,000 Somali refugees in five camps and has been successfully implementing innovative livelihoods projects benefitting both refugees and their host communities.
The UNHCR Representative also praised Ethiopia for its progressive refugee law that was adopted by the country’s Parliament in January this year and allows refugees to obtain work permits, access primary education, and national financial services, such as banking, among other rights.
“What is happening in Melkadida is what the world wants to achieve under the Global Compact on Refugees.”
“The microfinance institution is a good way to fuel development in this remote rural location with no access to major financial services such as banks,” said Betty G as she called for more international support to promote joint refugee-host community business projects that can help the two communities thrive together.
Back in the furniture workshop, Musa gets ready to receive new costumers. He particularly has many customers who are soon to be married.
“Marriage equals new furniture,” he laughs. “Marriage is good business.”