How Uganda sees refugees as a benefit, not a burden

Asina has lived in Bidibidi in Uganda for the past six years, long before it became the world’s largest refugee settlement.

“I’m happy,” she says. Her youngest children are playing catch in the field around her small hut from which she harvests maize. She uses most of it to feed her six children, and sells some, together with the brooms she makes, in one of the local markets. “I used to sell my brooms for 500 Shillings ($0.14) but now I can charge double. Life used to be harder before the refugees came,” she says.

Asina is one of the many people in Uganda who welcomed people fleeing from the crisis in South Sudan warmly. “I have benefitted from so many new people arriving here. It has led to new roads, closer schools for my children and I earn more than I used to. When my crops died due to the dry weather, it was relatively easy for me to start a new business selling brooms,” Asina says.

The Government of Uganda has a comprehensive and exemplary framework for refugees. They are given freedom of movement, the right to work and establish businesses, the right to identification documents, access to social services, and an allocation of land to live and for farming.

“We have a long history of hosting refugees and see the influx as an opportunity, in which we gain more capacity and skilled labour,” says Robert Baryamwesiga, Settlement Commandant for Bidibidi. “This in turn creates development for our economy. We don’t look at refugees as terrorists or as people bringing diseases. We look at them as equal human beings and make no separation between locals and refugees. We look at the positives and how they start innovation for our country.”