The Refugee Financing Initiative

Promoting financing inclusion amongst Refugees and Host Communities to build Sustainability
Good Practices

The Refugee Financing Initiative

Promoting financing inclusion amongst Refugees and Host Communities to build Sustainability
A group of people posing for teh camera

Participants pose for a photo, after one-day training in “financial literacy skills” in Rhino settlement of refugees.

The project in brief

The project is implemented by Centenary Bank in Uganda - it's main goal is to promote financial inclusion. It began in 2018 and is currently ongoing. 

Since 2018, Centenary Bank in Uganda embarked on deliberate steps to provide affordable and customized banking solutions to refugees. This has seen the institution penetrate Refugees as a bankable market niche. Through Financial Literacy Trainings, the Bank interacts with refugees for feedback, needs assessment and awareness. A Diagnostic study by the Netherlands platform for finance enabled us to understand in detail the behavior and demands of refugees. This has seen us attract refugees to bank with us. The initiative has enabled Refugees in Uganda access bank products and services while empowering them with financial management skills for economic resilience and sustainability. The initiative involves working with persons of concern for mobilization, interpretation and service delivery such as meals and refreshments in various trainings.

Main activities of the Good Practice

The Project involves working with key stakeholders of Refugees including Office of the Prime Minister, Refugee Welfare Communities, Refugee led organizations, hosting districts to identify beneficiaries of the Financial Literacy Trainings. Focal persons are thereafter identified to support in organizing the trainings. The relationship and rapport built with these focal persons support on promoting linkages in the communities to access bank products and services.

Partners involved

  • The European Investment Bank

  • The International Rescue Committee


What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?


  1. Language Barrier
  2. Insufficient funds to conduct more trainings
  3. Collateral gaps to access loans
  4. Flight risk and perception towards those that return to their countries
  5. Lack of a database

How they were overcome

  1. Hiring refugees as translators to support interpretation.
  2. Proposal writing to attract more funders to support more trainings and Lending.
  3. Budget commitment from the Bank to support Refugee trainings as CSR.

Results of the Good Practice

  • Over 1,500 refugees trained.
  • About 100 Businesses created.
  • 15 Agents recruited in settlement areas and host communities to provide jobs to Agents.
  • Agents have extended services to the Refugee areas hence providing safe custody of funds.
  • Peace in areas where banking services are. Safe banking methods reduce gender based violence cases in homes and communities where women keep cash.

In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

Empowering refugees with financial skills and knowledge creates bankable populations while promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship. Economically empowered persons of concern get capacity to live independent lives, set up businesses and change of mindset from cash based assistance to inclusion into the money market. These additionally become tax payers that contribute to the GDP of the country while reducing the burden to especially hosting districts and communities where refugees are.

Economically empowered refugees ultimately become independent with the capacity to afford basic needs of life for sustainability.

Next steps

It is an ongoing initiative. Refugees remain part of the Bank's core strategic plan.

Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?

  • More funds to upscale the initiative (demand for trainings is high).
  • Resources to establish a dedicated staffing structure to serve refugees and also give them employment opportunities.
  • Digitization (resources to support initial Agent Banking costs for especially rural refugees).
  • Funds to support Gender Equality Seal Trainings to promote Gender Lens financing.
  • Grants to support De-risking of Loans.
  • Partners to support capacity building of staffs (exposure trainings, attachment to leading financial service providers serving refugees, knowledge sharing experiences, conferences, workshops). All this requires resources.

Submitted by

Maria Karen Birungi, Senior Relationship Officer NGOS/Focal person of the Refugee Financing Initiative, Centenary Bank Uganda

[email protected]

Contact the project