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Financial inclusion

Financial inclusion

Access to a personal bank account helps refugees and other displaced people become self-reliant and economically independent.

UNHCR works to promote and increase access to financial services for refugees and other vulnerable groups in host communities.
UN Refugee Agency UNHCR livelihoods for refugees economic inclusion for refugees right to work access to bank accounts for refugees

Many refugees have no access to banks and other mainstream financial services. This creates an enormous hurdle on their way to self-reliance and economic independence. Because without a bank account, they lack a safe place to save and receive money, have much fewer options to make payments or access loans. In short, without such services, they can't fully participate in a country’s economy or build a stable life for themselves and their families.

UNHCR promotes access to financial services for refugees and other vulnerable groups in host communities. We work to build awareness of the business potential in serving refugees and to overcome policy constraints and access barriers.

For refugees and other people of concern, constant change is omnipresent. This is equally true for their financial situation: Refugees’ financial needs evolve over time, depending on their displacement phase, ranging from survival cash at the time of arrival, to more comprehensive services such as savings, payments and credit during a more stable and protracted phase.

In between these situations, plenty of other factors might play a role, for example, the vulnerability they experienced, their human and social capital and their plans for the future.

What does UNHCR do?

UNHCR works to ensure that refugees, as well as vulnerable groups in host communities, have access to affordable and suitable financial services. And that responsible financial service providers are delivering such services. We also work to build awareness of the business potential in serving refugees and to overcome policy constraints that hinder refugees’ access to financial services.

To create and foster an environment where refugees have a selection of financial services available, we have built partnerships with a range of development financial institutions, financial service providers, and microfinance investors:

  • Together with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, we have launched a programme to promote access to financial and non-financial services for refugees and host communities in Uganda. The programme provides selected financial service providers with debt-financing and technical assistance, to enable them to expand their lending operations and access to entrepreneurial training and financial literacy to over 100,000 refugees and host communities, 75% being women.
  • We are partnering with the non-profit crowdfunding platform KIVA in a number of countries to catalyze lending to refugees through crowdfunding loans for refugees and their host communities. 
  • Together with the United Nations Capital Development Fund we have developed a joint programme to support financial service providers in Africa with technical assistance and market studies, enabling them to provide demand-driven, client-centric financial services to refugees and host communities.
  • We are working with Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSD) to advocate for the extension of financial services to refugees by financial service providers in a number of Sub-Sahara African countries. To date, FSDA has been supporting financial service providers with market studies and technical assistance in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • With the International Finance Corporation and the International Labour Organization, we are jointly working in Kenya on market assessments and in linking up technical facilities put in place by the two organizations with financial service providers. With the International Finance Corporation we are also partnering in South America on market assessment studies.
  • We are partnering with a number of financial service providers across countries by offering them logistics support and socio-economic data-sharing to facilitate their outreach to refugees.