Story: Celebrating young freelancers in Dadaab refugee camp
In Dadaab, young graduates are smiling proudly, eager to hear their names being called out so that they can walk up to the stage and receive their certificates for completing the training programme under the Refugee Employment and Skills Initiative (RESI). These young people live in and around one of the oldest refugee camps in the world, Dadaab in Garissa County by the Somali border in the Eastern part of Kenya.
The RESI programme in Dadaab, Kenya is holding its first graduation ceremony since 2019. Since the outbreak, around 200 youth have completed the training programme in online freelancing life skills, digital entrepreneurship, and digital skills, but due to movement restrictions in and around the camps the graduation ceremony had to be pushed.
The daily routines of the trainees quickly changed when Covid-19 hit. They suddenly had to follow their classes and other activities online and complete work from home. The project had to switch its delivery method to allow students to continue the programme without any significant disruptions, delivering online trainings and switching the hybrid mentorship programme to delivering remotely.
The RESI programme was initially designed to allow youth who face movement restrictions, to work from inside refugee camps or remote areas like Garissa County where Dadaab is located. The need for such flexibility became even more evident with the pandemic, highlighting the importance of building economic resilience in ways that makes it possible to adapt to shocks and other external influences.
Ashish Shah, Director of Country Programmes at the International Trade Centre (ITC), congratulated the graduates during the ceremony: “Adapting to virtual learning and remote engagement is not easy but all graduated did a remarkable job to adapt to the situation and succeeded in such large numbers in completing this programme.”
Neil Turner, Kenya Country Director at the Norwegian Refugee Council thanked the staff for their delivery during the difficult times during the pandemic: “They needed to completely change the way that the skills development programme was offered. Rather than focusing on themselves they just rolled up their sleeves and got to work.”
A support system for long-term impact
The graduation only marks the beginning. The graduates will continue participating in the RESI mentorship programme, which offers follow-up support to build careers, for example through events, internships and personal coaching. The programme is also planning to offer study tours to Nairobi in August and September for top performing graduates to gain face-to-face exposure and market connections.
RESI freelancers also get the opportunity to become members of the Dadaab Collective, an online freelancing agency formed with previous RESI graduates. The agency allows freelancers to work together to deliver services for clients across the world as a support structure to the freelancers.
Besides supporting the agency with its business development, RESI delivers trainings and provides one-stop-shops for business coaching to small businesses in and around Dadaab. Early this year, the project launched an eco-system entrepreneurship mapping focused on services provided to the youth and refugee community in Garissa County. The project is also looking to launch a strategy on private-sector engagement in providing online work for refugees later this year.
Creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and trade in Dadaab and Garissa County is key to ensuring a support system for freelancers and young entrepreneurs beyond the project in the long-term.
This way, youth refugees and host community members can have a future in which they will be self-reliant and self-resilient.
About the Refugee Employment & Skills Initiative in Dadaab, Kenya
In Dadaab, RESI provides economic opportunities for young refugees and host community members through skills training and market access support in the digital services. Funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the International Trade Centre (ITC) is implementing the programme in collaboration with Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).