PROSPECTS Uganda: Dutch envoy inspired by refugees in Nakivale Settlement

Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Uganda met with young refugees at the country’s oldest refugee settlement, and examined impact of ILO's entrepreneurship training programme, implemented with the support of PROSPECTS.

News | 06 September 2021
Article by Grace Rwomushana, National Programme Coordinator for Enterprise Development, ILO PROSPECTS Uganda

Ambassador Karin Boven, together with young refugees in Nakivale settlement. ©ILO/Stephen Opio
Nakivale settlement, Uganda (ILO News) “I have seen people with hopes and dreams. Youth and women who are trying to produce goods and materials to earn an income.” With these words, Her Excellency Karin Boven, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Uganda, summed up her first visit to the country’s oldest refugee settlement Nakivale in Isingiro district. Uganda currently hosts 1.5 million refugees in 33 settlements, with Nakivale being the oldest settlement and home to over 148,000 refugees from Burundi, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Somalia.

From 25 to 26 August 2021, the Ambassador was visiting programme activities in Isingiro district under the PROSPECTS Partnership. This is a multi-year programme, funded by the Netherlands, bringing together five agencies: the International Finance Cooperation (IFC), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Bank. The aim is devise and implement collaborative and innovative approaches for inclusive job creation, education and protection in contexts characterized by forced displacement.

“Unleashed”, whose tagline is ‘potentials in motion’, is a refugee youth-led organisation operating in Nakivale settlement where the Ambassador spent some time during the visit. The organisation was launched in 2018, about the same time that the PROSPECTS Programme was established, to restore hope among young refugees, build self-esteem and confidence, develop skills and talents to enable them to live meaningful lives through social entrepreneurship.

Victor Mafigi Turatsinze (far right) is joined by his peers to showcase some of the products produced by refugees and present these to Ambassador Boven. ©ILO/Stephen Opio
“We wanted to give fellow young refugees hope to do something productive with their lives, instead of sitting and waiting for repatriation, which you never know when it will come, if it comes at all,” Victor Mafigi Turatsinze, a 30 year-old Congolese refugee, told the Ambassador and her delegation that included representatives of the ILO, UNICEF and UNCHR. Victor has been a refugee for the past nine years, after fleeing the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012.

Unleashed uses a five-stage empowerment approach starting with entrance, exploration, concentration, linking and mastery. Although the organisation had been training young people since 2018, its training curriculum was not as well designed as it could be until Victor was introduced to the ILO’s Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) training packages in late 2019 with the support of the PROSPECTS programme.

Developed by the ILO, SIYB is a management programme with a focus on starting and improving small businesses as a strategy for employment creation. Through four inter-related packages – Generate Your Business Idea (GYB), Start Your Business (SYB), Improve Your Business (IYB) and Expand Your Business (EYB) – the programme aims to create jobs by enabling potential and existing small entrepreneurs to start viable businesses, increase profitability of their existing enterprises and improve the working conditions of their employees in a way that enhances productivity.

Victor Mafigi Turatsinze (far right) is joined by his peers to showcase some of the products produced by refugees and present these to Ambassador Boven. ©ILO/Stephen Opio
“Connecting with SIYB has been very important for us to deliver our empowerment concept at Unleashed. We use Generate Your Business Idea (GYIB) at the entrance stage and all the way to acceleration we follow the SIYB curriculum,” Victor explains.

He has trained 60 young refugees using the SIYB curriculum, some of whom have started businesses or are trying to improve existing ones. For example, Oasis Bakery which produces five types of bread, started up in 2021, while Botanica which produces a mosquito repellent jelly, Parafruita that makes fruit juice, and a crafts and tailoring business called Moddahlys, are all being improved after the owners attended the SIYB training offered by Unleashed. All these enterprises are located in Nakivale refugee settlement. Collectively, they provide direct employment to 19 full-time refugee workers, with more opportunities in the distribution and input supplies for the bakery, mosquito repellent jelly and fruit juice processing businesses.

These are just a few examples where the hopes and dreams of young refugees were presented to the Netherlands Ambassador and her delegation. Small businesses with potential but that still need to be nurtured to grow and create more and better jobs. Through the PROSPECTS programme, the ILO will invest in more interventions around market systems strengthening in potential value chains that provide refugees and host communities with income and employment opportunities.