COVID-19 and Refugees’ Economic Opportunities, Financial Services and Digital Inclusion

Addressing structural and practical barriers to refugees’ financial and economic inclusion

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments worldwide have increased policy support for digital financial services, including by waiving fees and allowing remote onboarding to both allow for greater social distancing and support resilience in the midst of a major economic crisis. While the findings in four refugee contexts in Jordan, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, show that digital services such as mobile money can in theory be more accessible for refugees than standard bank accounts, in practice refugees continue to face barriers. These services are often new and underdeveloped and therefore untested, or refugees are only permitted a restricted form of access. Even though digital services are likely to become more important given the ‘new normal’ and continued need for socially distanced services, this transition is only starting, and refugees need to be included in mainstream and fully developed financial services.

This policy brief is part of a series of papers by the International Rescue Committee that are putting a spotlight on the realities of COVID-19 in humanitarian settings. The series explores the knock-on effects of the virus on people in fragile and conflict-affected contexts and how the international community and national governments can meet evolving needs.

About this Publication

By Anneleen Vos and Kelsey Weber, Daphne Jayasinghe, Lauren Post, Kim Wilson, Swati Dhawan & Hans-Martin Zademach