Rebuilding livelihoods in displacement

A study tracking the income, spending habits, and livelihoods of refugees in Uganda

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Little has been known about the financial strategies employed by refugees over time to build their livelihoods and manage their finances. A two-year study tracked refugees’ income and spending habits in Uganda to understand the financial strategies employed to manage their money in displacement. This report provides an in-depth analysis of a baseline survey undertaken in January 2020 and an endline in November 2021 to demonstrate the economic viability of refugees. It offers unique insights on access to and usage of financial services among refugee and host communities in Uganda and how best to leverage financial services for them.

Key highlights

  1. There has been an increase in the number of refugees owning or having access to mobile phones compared to the baseline by 7%, with mobile phone usage among female refugees increasing by 10%. More female refugees (41%) owned a smartphone compared to 32% of male refugees.
  2. As a result of legislative changes allowing refugees to own SIM cards in their own names in 2019, mobile money usage had a tremendous increase from 29% to 61% between the baseline and endline period.
  3. Refugees have a wide range of income sources. On average, they had 3 sources of income. Some of the various economic activities reported include self-employment, non-employment income (grants), casual employment, agricultural income, and rental income.
  4. There was a significant change in keeping cash at home, from 29% at the baseline to 59% during the endline. Refugees keep money at home for emergencies, particularly for health emergencies. This is especially true during the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as refugees wanted a place where they could easily access money in case of emergencies.
  5. In terms of savings instruments, savings groups (Accumulating Savings and Credit Association and Rotating Savings and Credit Association) are still heavily used. There was an increase in ASCA usage among the refugees from 35% in the baseline to 46% during the endline. 



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