True story from the Umoja ni Nguvu RC savings group in Nyarugusu Refugee Camp
Ten years have passed since this Congolese man sitting alongside me in a church in the Nyaragusu refugee camp settled his life here. However, this was far from the time he has spent in refugee communities. Almost nineteen years ago, the outbreak of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo forced Joseph and his family to flee to Tanzania, a country that is 1476 kilometers away from home. Back then, he was only eleven years old, when he was supposed to continue studying in primary school and live a childhood without fear.
Nineteen years later today, Joseph has completed his secondary education in the refugee camp. Moreover, he endeavors to live a decent life despite the limited resources he owns.
Joseph turns out to be the first and only refugee I encountered during this visit who has stepped out Nyaragusu. As a member of a group for entrepreneurs, he manages to get a business permit (TZS 20,000—USD 8.7) to purchase commodities in Kasulu (a small town near the Nyarugusu refugee camp) every several weeks. However, asking for a permit is nothing easy. Competition among business group members is fierce. If a refugee is lucky enough to obtain one, (s)he will still have to wait for up to two to three days before it gets approved. In the end, (s)he needs to negotiate with NGOs for transportation support since assistance in bringing refugees in and out has been declining.
Three months ago, Joseph joined the Umoja ni Nguvu RC (“Unite is power” in English) savings group monitored by Good Neighbors Tanzania, one of UNCDF's partners under the Kigoma Joint Programme. He took a loan of TZS 200,030 (around USD 87), an amount of money that he could never have access to without the help of the savings group. The loan is spent in multiple ways, including the permit and transportation fee for commuting to Kasulu; cooking oil to be sold in the camp and clothes and food as family consumption. By the time we talked, he had already used TZS 50,000 (around USD 21.7), profit from his cooking oil business, to buy a goat and expect to see it reproduce. Apart from the palm oil business, this father of five also runs a tailoring business. "Tailoring is my additional source of income, but I also make clothes for my wife and children." Joseph added.
Amazed by how he moves his life forward in the camp, I asked Joseph what recommendations, if any, he would give to help this savings group develop. “I hope that UNCDF could enforce more training on entrepreneurship and create more activities to gather and unite our members.” These are what we have been trying to do together with our partners. And I am confident that with additional training and more access to financial education materials, Joseph’s small business will experience better improvement.
At the end of our talk, I reiterated if I could use his story for publication. “Ndiyo!” (“Yes!”) Looking at me with steady eyes, Joseph answered:" This is for development.”
UNCDF in Tanzania
In Tanzania, UNCDF's Financial Inclusion Practice Area (FIPA) team works to advance access to finance, strengthen savings, and improve financial capability in the Kigoma Region. Our target groups are small farmers, refugees and surrounding host communities, and our focus is women and youth.