Telecom company Airtel Uganda has in a bid to increase access to digital financials services among the refugee communities in Uganda, Airtel has boosted infrastructure investments in the West Nile region.
According to Amit Kapur, the Chief Commercial Officer at Airtel Uganda, at least 25,079 refugees in Yumbe and Adjumani districts in West Nile have been facilitated to access mobile phones, simcards and financial services.
“This strategic financial inclusion effort has brought positive changes not only in the lives of refuges but also the host communities,” Kapur said. “
The exercise has created jobs and brought social services closer to the people living in the refugee areas.”
According to the United Nations, 1.1 million refugees call Uganda home, making it Africa’s largest refugee hosting country.
Refugees account for at least 50% of the total population in Adjumani and Yumbe districts.
To be fully integrated in the Uganda community, refugees require a support system to sustain their well-being. Most refugee communities receive support from the government, charity organisations and development partners.
In 2017, Airtel made a deliberate investment move to construct telecommunications mast sites in Bidi Bidi and Palabek Refugee centres in an effort to extend 4G voice and data communication as well as Airtel Money services to the communities.
“As a result, today, Airtel is not only delivering funds to the refugees on behalf of the United Nations but also training and skilling refugees on the use of mobile phones and Airtel Money services,” Kapur added.
Besides benefiting the refugees in the host communities, the extension of digital financial services has also led to the recruitment of Airtel Money agents, to complete the transaction process by providing person-to-person services, mobile money float allocation, among other services.
Airtel’s support has therefore guaranteed, job creation, skills development and sustainable livelihood in West Nile.
Further to this effort, Airtel Uganda is also collaborating with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to boost mobile money and bridge the digital finance divide to reach an additional one million customers in Northern Uganda.
The commitment builds on the ongoing alliance with UNCDF in implementing the “Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era” strategy launched in 2019.
The partnership is also in line with the Uganda National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2017 – 2022, which is designed to ensure women, youth and rural populations at large are reached by services of the finance sector whilst building the digital infrastructure necessary to broaden savings, investment, insurance and reduce barriers to access to financial services.
“While digital services are key in contributing to the attainment of SDGs in Uganda and the world over, many people unfortunately still find it challenging to tap into this opportunity due to limited or lack of connectivity, devices, and client- centered digital services,” said Mike McCaffrey, the UNCDF Digital Regional Manager for East and Southern Africa.
By partnering with mobile telecom operators and digital money providers like Airtel, McCaffrey explained, “UNCDF taps into the Market Systems Development approach to incentivize digital finance and digital innovation enablers to enter markets they may otherwise overlook, while addressing market challenges like improving infrastructure for connectivity and efficiencies for mobile money agents, and merchant payment points.”