KIGALI, Rwanda, June 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), a network of business accelerators, is celebrating World Refugee Day by highlighting the value of investing in refugee and host community businesses. With offices in 8 refugee camps in East Africa, AEC is the largest lender to refugee businesses in Africa and boasts a 98% repayment rate. They have worked with almost 30,000 entrepreneurs and invested nearly $4.1M in refugee communities.
This year for World Refugee Day, which takes place annually on June 20th, AEC has released data about the impact of investing in entrepreneurs and businesses in refugee communities globally. Their impact data shows that business development support and 2,000 loans to refugees has now yielded 15,000 new jobs and generated $27M in new revenue.
“Investing in refugee communities is a key component of investing in an integrated Africa. AEC’s new data has shown the power of businesses in refugee communities to flourish and make significant economic impact with the host community. With added digital and tech access, AEC is now also increasing pathways to the digital economy, a key element of financial inclusion for refugee communities,” says Isaac Kwaku Fokuo, Jr., Founder of Botho Emerging Markets Group.
With this track record of financial inclusion, AEC vows to expand its impact even more in honor of World Refugee Day: launching a new office in Garissa County, Kenya, home to the Dadaab Refugee Complex, and rolling out a new digital loan app that will increase access to finance for refugee communities. These two offerings will help AEC exponentially reach more people, diversify access points and introduce digital accessibility.
“AEC’s work with entrepreneurs has consistently shown that investing in refugee businesses is catalytic for economic development in refugee and host communities. By bringing new investment opportunities to refugee-hosting businesses in Garissa and a digital solution for access to finance for refugees in Rwanda, we’re able to leverage AEC’s investment thesis into new growth options, starting this week,” says Julienne Oyler, CEO of AEC.
AEC Kenya, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, celebrated the launch of the new Garissa office by welcoming their first cohort of 250 entrepreneurs last week, just ahead of World Refugee Day. The cohort is composed of 61% women participants and a variety of business types. The new office will feature access to AEC’s new app for finance and is part of AEC Kenya’s strategy to support 9,000 businesses in Kenya by 2022.
AEC’s new app and increased digital accessibility is a continuation of AEC’s larger pivot towards digital solutions for their entrepreneur clients. “During COVID-19, movement restrictions limited how we could provide services in refugee communities. Like most businesses, it forced us to quickly develop digital offerings that would work for our population. Because we were able to make expedient implementations and because 39% of our AEC staff are refugees ourselves, we were able to continuously serve refugee host communities through the COVID crisis, despite movement restrictions,” says Olive Ashimwe, Regional Refugee Director at AEC.
The new AEC loan app is available for AEC entrepreneurs and offers an option of five languages: English, French Kinyarwanda, Swahili and Somali. Once users have created a profile, they can apply for financing, check the status of their application, and will soon be able to track their repayments.
In order to increase accessibility of the app to entrepreneurs, Inkomoko Entrepreneur Development (AEC’s Rwanda affiliate) will distribute 500 smartphones, beginning in Rwanda’s Gihembe refugee community later this month. Initiated by MTN Rwanda, in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, the #ConnectRwanda campaign was launched in December 2019, with the objective of providing smartphones to unconnected households across Rwanda to leverage the digital economy. Inkomoko’s distribution will be the first one focused on refugees. In the coming years, AEC pledges to continue this work in Rwanda, providing investments to 75% of refugee households in Rwanda, reaching 25,000 families.
“As a small business owner, I have done the best I can to grow my shop into a sustainable revenue stream. With AEC Kenya’s program, I hope to learn the skills to take my business to the next level. I am also very thankful that AEC Kenya offers Sharia-compliant products so I can access investment opportunities,” said Shukri Muhumed, a business owner in AEC’s first Garissa cohort.
AEC will release more on refugee investments on their social media channels beginning Thursday, 17th June. Please follow AEC and its local affiliates on social media:
#With Refugees #WRD2021
About African Entrepreneur Collective
African Entrepreneur Collective is a network of business accelerators and loan funds with a social mission to create jobs and improve lives. AEC has worked with entrepreneurs in Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania since 2012. At the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum in 2019, AEC made a private sector pledge to support 35,000 refugees and host community entrepreneurs in 5 countries by 2024, one of the largest entrepreneurship pledges to date. With 160 staff in 12 offices across East Africa, African Entrepreneur Collective has helped more than 30,000 entrepreneurs run their operations more efficiently and strategically, generating a combined new revenue of $48M USD. AEC is the largest lender to refugee entrepreneurs in Africa.
For more information please visit www.AfricanEntrepreneurCollective.org
Autumn Marie Faraj
SOURCE African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC)