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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs