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Three refugee entrepreneurs overcome Covid-19 challenges

Covid-19 Inclusion

Aziza, Omot and Khalid keep their businesses thriving after the Covid-19 crisis with financial assistance from Humanity & Inclusion and the Mastercard Foundation.

A Black man stands in front of shelves in a store.

Omot lives in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where he manages a small business. Through training and financial assistance, HI helped him keep his business afloat after the Covid-19 crisis. | © E. Sellers / HI

The livelihood development project

The Covid-19 health crisis led to the temporary or permanent closure of most micro, small and medium-sized businesses, resulting in massive job losses. Humanity & Inclusion implemented various measures to help business owners adapt to the market disruption caused by the pandemic. In Kenya, HI carried out a livelihood development project at the Kakuma refugee camp and settlement. This project was supported by the Mastercard Foundation's Covid-19 recovery and resilience program.

Three years after the start of this crisis, Aziza, Omot and Khalid, three entrepreneurs supported by the project, share the challenges they have overcome to succeed despite the health and economic crises.

Aziza's hotel

A Black woman sits in a blue plastic chair in her hotelAziza is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. When she arrived in Kenya, she settled in Kakuma and opened her hotel.

When the global pandemic disrupted the entire population, Aziza encountered some financial difficulties with protective measures reducing her customer base. A mother of 6, Aziza feared for her future and that of her children.

Aziza met the HI team in Kakuma. Thanks to the organization's livelihood development project, she received a grant that helped her resume and expand the business. She bought more tables, chairs, plates and food for her hotel to better serve visitors. Today, Aziza's business is flourishing and she is very grateful for the help provided by HI.  

"I'm very grateful for the support HI has given me. Thanks to it, I can continue my business and take care of my children."

Omot's grocery shop

A Black man with glasses stands in a fully stocked shopOmot, who has a visual disability, runs his own grocery shop. He sells a range of products, including produce, candy, drinks, clothes and shoes. Through his shop, Omot provides an essential service to his community.

The Covid-19 crisis did not spare his business; prices ballooned and he worried he would have to close the shop. Fortunately, he received a financial boost from HI.

Omot's business has returned to profitability, enabling him to become financially independent once again. Now, he wants to expand his business and open a second shop.

"I'm happy because today I'm financially independent and I'm contributing to the well-being of the community."

Khalid's market

A man wearing a white button-up stands in a shop with phone accessories and drinks on the shelvesKhalid arrived in Kenya in 2018 and quickly opened his own store. For five years, he's been selling phone chargers, electronic accessories, produce and drinks. Khalid was also hit hard by the economic crisis of 2020. The inflation in the prices of the products he sold meant that his business was no longer profitable. As prices rose and uncertainty grew, fewer and fewer customers were coming in.

Also a recipient of financial assistance from HI and the Mastercard Foundation, Khalid has managed to keep his business afloat. Today, he can buy new goods for his shop and continues to supply his community.

"I'm delighted to be able to supply all these products to my community, especially as it's difficult to get access to this type of product in the region.”

The Mastercard Foundation joins forces with HI to support refugees in Kenya. The Mastercard Foundation's Covid-19 recovery and resilience program has two main objectives: to provide emergency support to health workers, school children and others experiencing vulnerability, and to strengthen the various institutions that form the first line of defense against the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, such as schools, small businesses and youth organizations. The project began in February 2021 and ended in March 2023. It provided accessible digital teaching materials to more than 1,300 students, trained nearly 200 education stakeholders in inclusive education, and provided nearly 200 micro-entrepreneurs with business assistance.

Date published: 06/09/23


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