Uganda is currently hosting an unprecedented number of refugees, with over 1.5 million refugees, including 860,000 children. Refugees in Uganda face several challenges such as poverty, food insecurity, and a lack of access to basic services like healthcare and education. To address these challenges, the Hilton Foundation has awarded a refugee financing grant of $500,000 (UGX 1,870,000,000) to Opportunity Bank Uganda and FINCA Uganda.

Opportunity Bank will focus on Nakivale and Kampala under the Early Childhood Development program, while FINCA will prioritize Kiryandongo and Kampala by providing finance and financial literacy to these refugee settlements. According to FINCA’s Managing Director, Mr. James Onyutta, the grant support will help them to target their interventions better.

The banks aim to provide affordable financial solutions and child-centered development centers to upskill children below the age of eight. The grant will help the banks identify communities’ needs, especially for financing, and offer credit and financial education to these areas. The CEO of Opportunity Bank Uganda, Owen Amanya, praised the Hilton Foundation for the grant and pledged to offer refugees more finances and financial literacy.

According to the UNICEF, 60% of refugees in Uganda are children. Over 900,000 child refugees and asylum seekers have fled conflict or persecution from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi, with over 71% from South Sudan. These children have experienced traumatic, life-altering events, such as forced displacement, separation from loved ones, and physical and sexual violence. Even in refuge, many continue to be vulnerable to marginalization and violence, especially gender-based violence.

By offering financial solutions and education, FINCA and Opportunity Bank aim to help refugees build businesses and complete their value chains. As the first commercial bank with a branch in a refugee settlement, Opportunity Bank is committed to refugee lending as a lifestyle. The bank plans to open more branches in refugee settlements over the next three years to offer more humanitarian financing.