News / Africa

Report: Uganda Refugees Find Success Through Work, Resourcefulness

Charlotte Mapendo fled the DRC two years ago, and now supports her family by selling kitenge cloth door to door. June 24, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
Charlotte Mapendo fled the DRC two years ago, and now supports her family by selling kitenge cloth door to door. June 24, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)

Charlotte Mapendo spends nearly every day walking the streets and dusty alleyways of her adopted home, Kampala.

She carries folds of colorful Congolese kitenge cloth on her head, selling the fabric as she goes.

Mapendo fled her native Democratic Republic of Congo two years ago after rebel soldiers killed her husband and knocked out her front teeth. She arrived in Kampala with nothing but the clothes on her back.

A new report by the Refugee Studies Center at Britain's Oxford University found that refugees like Mapendo can have a positive economic impact on their host countries, if given the chance to work.

The report focuses on Uganda, where 99 percent of refugees earn their own incomes. The vast majority of urban refugees, it found, receive no international aid at all.

Mapendo said she started her business by selling the kitenge she was wearing around her waist, using the little money she made to buy more.

Right now she only sells enough fabric to feed her five children, but she hopes eventually to scrape together the capital to open a small shop.

Refugees receive no aid

Yusrah Nagujja, of the Kampala-based Refugee Law Project, explained that Uganda's policy requires urban refugees to support themselves.  

"They are self-sustaining. Yes, they might be staying in dingy areas and in the slums, but they are paying rent. So how are they able to pay this rent? Because no organization is paying rent for them,” Nagujja said.

This, she said, forces them to be industrious and resourceful.

Many survive by selling cloth or jewelry, or by braiding hair. Some manage to grow their businesses to the point where they employ other refugees, or even native Ugandans.

Nagujja said the Somali refugee community in Kisenyi, a neighborhood in Kampala, is a good example of how successful they can be.

"They are operating small businesses like selling perfume or selling beauty products, or selling tea or food. Most of the petrol stations are operated by Somalis. They have big shops, they have butcheries,” she said. “Basically, when you go to Kisenyi, business is for the Somalis."

But not all refugees’ businesses focus on trade.

Uncertain about future

Joshua Gato is a Congolese refugee who has been living in Uganda for the past 18 years. He earned a university degree in Kampala, and now works for an organization helping other refugees to adjust.

"I work as a community interpreter. You know, refugees from the eastern part of Congo and Congo as a whole don't know English. I also help in teaching these refugees the English language,” Gato said.  

But despite the opportunities Uganda offers, Gato said, he is still classed as a refugee, and will always be considered a foreigner.

He lives in fear that everything he has built for his family could be taken away.

"The law does not allow me to buy land. The children don't see any future, because I cannot plan. We are afraid that at any time they can say, 'OK, refugees go back.' And that's where the problem will come again, because I will not know where to go,” Gato said.

He said he hopes that someday Ugandans will recognize what refugees contribute to the country.

Uganda should offer more than just a chance to work, he said: it should offer them a future.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid