ITC and Norwegian Refugee Council launch the Refugee Employment and Skills Initiative in Dadaab, Kenya
(Nairobi-Geneva) – The International Trade Centre and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) have launched a new project to create income generation opportunities for refugee and Kenyan youth in the Dadaab camp, Kenya. The Refugee Employment and Skills Initiative (RESI) uses market-based incentives to foster sustainable livelihoods for refugees and members of the host community, allowing them to gain commercially viable skills while enhancing youth employment and entrepreneurship. The RESI-Kenya project is funded by the Government of The Netherlands.
Protracted crises around the world present an increasing need for durable solutions to enhance the resilience of refugees and host communities. This ultimately requires inputs from both humanitarian and development actors in order to be sustainable and effective.
Through RESI, ITC will work with a diverse range of partners to develop trade-led, market-based solutions to create work opportunities for young people in Dadaab in the online freelancing and home décor sectors. ITC Project Manager Vivian Marcelino, said: ‘What is exciting about RESI is that it combines the strengths and resources of humanitarian and development partners, namely NRC and ITC, to promote long-lasting solutions in protracted refugee situations, such as Dadaab.’
Andrea Bianchi, NRC Head of Programme-Kenya, said: ‘The RESI project will enable the NRC to work more closely with all development partners, including the Garissa County Government and to have a holistic approach in our business and livelihood sector interventions.’
The dual emphasis on improving the livelihoods of both refugees and members of the host community is a crucial component of the project and creates wider value in Dadaab. Siyad Samatar, NRC’s area manager for north-eastern Kenya, said this “strengthens the harmonious coexistence of the two communities”.
Assessing the feasibility of business
Ahead of the project launch, RESI engaged Open Capital Advisors (OCA), a management and financial advisory consulting firm based in Nairobi, to conduct a study on the feasibility of setting up digital services and home décor businesses in Dadaab refugee camp.
The study, which included a site visit to Dadaab, interviews and focus groups, identified a significant demand for digital services, including online freelancing in work such as basic computer services, data entry, transcription or others. It found that a business operating out of Dadaab would be especially well positioned to target client segments interested in social impact.
Home décor faces challenges related to physical product movement and a highly saturated market. In the absence of cost-effective supply chains to and from major commercial hubs, raw materials are very expensive in Dadaab, and access to scalable markets is limited. In this context, product innovation and a strong brand proposition, ideally targeted towards the middle to higher end markets, will be key to success.
Neil Wood, Principal at OCA, noted that "the refugees in Dadaab, many of which have spent their whole life in the camp, have a strong desire to learn, to be in control of their livelihoods, and to further integrate into broader society and economic value chains. Both assessed business models would allow refugees to develop valuable skills that remain relevant even after repatriation.”
Implementation for Impact in Dadaab, Kenya
Building on the findings from the feasibility study, under both value chains, online freelancing and home décor, the project offers skills upgrading, business development support, and connections to markets.
The online freelancing program offers participants the chance to upgrade their skill sets through digital skills training, delivered by Samasource Digital Basics, a leading digital training firm based in Nairobi. Summing up its collaboration with RESI, Phillip K Chikwiramakomo, the company’s program director, said: ‘Samasource is excited to be partnering with ITC and NRC. We are looking forward to supporting refugees onto online work platforms as freelancers as we believe that it represents a huge opportunity for bringing employment to remote refugee camps.’
Once they graduate, the new online freelancers will be supported to join global platforms for freelancers, such as Upwork. Upwork has been collaborating with organizations like ITC through the Upwork Social Impact Program to help make services accessible to underserved communities, including refugees. Elizabeth Tse, a senior vice-president for operations at Upwork, said: ‘Upwork's mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives. We believe great talent should have access to great opportunities, regardless of the community in which they live.’
For home décor, Tosheka Textiles, a Kenyan-based social enterprise specializing in textile production, will provide training to women artisans in Dadaab camp on home décor product development and assist them to improve their business management. These artisans will then be supported to enter social enterprise value chains and to supply higher-end markets in Nairobi and beyond.
By enhancing the ability of refugees and host community members to connect to domestic and international value chains, RESI will provide sustainable income-generating opportunities for youth and women in Dadaab and improve their abilities to be self-reliant.
Combining NRC’s on-the-ground knowledge with ITC’s expertise in trade-led, market-based solutions, RESI demonstrates that such partnerships are viable and that market-based, durable solutions can be implemented in contexts of forced displacement.
Notes for the Editor
ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development. For more information, visit www.intracen.org.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is an independent humanitarian organisation helping people forced to flee. The organization works in crises across 31 countries, providing life-saving and long-term assistance to millions of people every year.
International Trade Centre
Office of the Executive Director
P: + 41 22 730 0145
M: + 41 79 582 9180
E: hetland [at] intracen.org ( )