Swisscontact reinforces its commitment to fostering increased private sector engagement in refugee areas

On the 23rd of February 2023, the Livelihoods and Resilience Sector Working Group (LRSWG), a partnership hosted by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), organized a private-sector engagement event to reflect on the evolving private-sector engagement and experiences in refugee areas, challenges, and emerging opportunities. The workshop was also aimed at initiating dialogue between private sector players, policymakers, development and humanitarian actors on fostering increased private sector engagement in the refugee space.

Notable institutions that were present included the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) and Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) representing Government, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) United States Agency for International Development (USAID) represented by the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), World Bank and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as part of the development partners as well as Ntasa Manufacturers & Investment Limited, KAD Africa and KK Foods which are private sector actors who have worked with refugees. Non-government organizations present included Swisscontact, World Vision, and Save the Children among others.  

The engagement included a panel discussion on ongoing and upcoming interventions, policies and strategies that promote private sector engagement during which government representatives from MGLSD committed to enabling access to finance especially for women through the Generating Growth Opportunities for Women (GROW) project that aims at supporting female-owned enterprise growth and transition, improving demand-driven enabling infrastructure and facilities for enterprise growth and transition.

A section of panelists participating in the discussion
"Sustainable productivity – the volume and quality of products, access to quality inputs and extension services are key aspects that can foster increased private sector engagement."
Pavlos Troulis, Country Director Swisscontact in Uganda
Swisscontact Uganda Country Director Pavlos Troulis gives his remarks during the panel discussion.

The Swisscontact Country Director, Pavlos Troulis, asserted that mindset change among refugees, private sector, Government, development and humanitarian needs to be emphasised to enable the populace in the refugee hosting districts transition from being passive beneficiaries to active project participants with the knowledge, skills, attitude, and capacity that the private sector can work with. He further noted that there is an increasing need for development partners to fund research aimed at capturing market relevant data since this helps to estimate the demand and supply dynamics around various value-chains and helps craft pathways for investment into the refugee hosting communities.

Benjamin Prinz, the Director and Operations Manager of Asili Farms Masindi, asserted that subsidies especially for initial costs such as customer acquisition are relevant when venturing into these communities. He further emphasized that all relevant stakeholders in the refugee space should work in a way that leverages each partner’s knowledge and experience for the betterment of the eco-system It is noteworthy that there was a common appeal for technical education to progress to the needs of the private sector.

In conclusion, Government entities and development organizations committed to fostering increased private sector engagement by improving infrastructure, offering subsidies, and skilling of refugees since these are the most pertinent aspects emphasized by private sector actors.

Uganda has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and is likely to triple by 2050. Uganda recently elevated seven municipalities to city status, thus predicting a surge in the annual rate of urbanisation, currently at 5.7%. The anticipated increase in rural-urban migration is caused by the search for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. New employment opportunities are likely to be created in the construction, hospitality, agribusiness, and tourism sectorsDespite the great opportunities associated with the population boom, several challenges lie ahead, like income inequality and food insecurity.
Uganda hosts more than 1.38 million refugees who fled from neighbouring countries due to political instability. This presents several opportunities as well as challenges in terms of labour force integration
, settlement, among others.  

For the 
past 35 years, Uganda has made gains that contributed significantly to economic growth.  Relative political stability, infrastructural development, increased regional trade, and tourist influxes have stimulated growth. However, these gains have not accorded the country its desired status. Presently, Uganda is focussed on reinforcing livelihoods, employment (particularly for youth) and industrial rejuvenation to achieve middle-income status. Just recently, the oil and gas sector became the newest opportunity for Uganda and is envisioned to further contribute to economic growth.
Collaboration with the Private Sector
Swisscontact was founded more than 60 years ago by exponents of Swiss business. Our commitment to the private sector is deeply rooted in our DNA.