FDP Finance


A quarter of the world’s 65 million forcibly displaced people (FDPs) live in sub-Saharan Africa. This includes 4.4 million refugees (who have been forced to flee their own countries) and 10.7 million internally displaced people. Large refugee populations exist in many countries in which the FSD Network has a presence, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Zambia and D.R. Congo.

The number of FDPs is growing every year and displacements are also lasting for longer. A total of 42% of refugees have been displaced for five or more years. Increasingly forcibly displaced populations tend to be geographically stable, urban, connected and economically active. However, they remain excluded from financial services that play a key role in their survival and livelihood strategies.

The FSD Africa approach

The FSD Africa approach aims to challenge the status quo of aid delivery to the FDP population in Africa. By energising financial markets to deliver welfare-enhancing outcomes for FDPs, we hope to complement the traditional direct delivery of relief. We believe, with the right rules and incentives, the market could deliver to certain segments within the FDP population efficiently, at scale, and on a lasting basis. To learn more about the FSD Africa approach, take a look at our blog on the topic.

What is FSD Africa doing?

In Rwanda

FSD Africa is working in partnership with The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), national governments and the FSD Network to support the development of market-based solutions to the financial needs of forcibly displaced people and their host communities.

The first phase of FSD Africa’s FDP work has focused on Rwanda with plans to expand to Uganda and beyond. This work was launched in June 2017, the day before World Refugee Day, in partnership with the Government of Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR)UNHCRAccess to Finance Rwanda (AFR). The work has so far had three major initiatives: a research report, a Design Sprint and an innovation challenge.

  • Market assessment report

In partnership with Bankable Frontier Associates, FSD Africa produced a market intelligence report titled Refugees and their Money. The report is a triangulation of four different research activities:  segmenting and sizing refugees as a market for financial services; translating the segments into business cases to assess potential for serving this market; creating profiles of segments based on field research in refugee camps; and assessing the regulatory environment to provide financial services for refugees.

  • FDP Design Sprint

A design sprint is a 3-5 day process in which financial service providers are put through an intensive course of learning, designing and testing new product ideas for a target market – in our case, the FDP communities. On 1st-3rd November 2018, FSD Africa brought two worlds together by inviting 5 financial service providers into the Gihembe refugee community in Rwanda to participate in a Product Design Sprint. This involved rapid learning, ideation, prototyping and testing of innovative new products based on the specific needs of a refugee community. Some of the experiences were captured on video and can be viewed here (and a shorter version here)

In December 2017, and to maintain momentum following the Design Sprint, FSDA and AFR run an innovation competition where they awarded £10,000 to 5 financial service providers with the most promising refugee finance product concepts. The firms (see table below) were contracted between March – May 2018 for 3-4 months to test the concepts after which up to 3 will be awarded up to £150,000 of investment each by FSDA and AFR to develop and launch the product at scale in 2018.


Firm Idea/concept
MFS Africa Limited The MFS hub connects mobile money systems to each other, and to money transfer organisations, banks and other financial institutions, enabling money remittances to and from mobile money accounts. In Rwanda, MFS proposes to create an MFS portal to connect all mobile wallets for refugees. The portal will offer interoperability, transparency and ease of data analysis to let financial providers, donors/humanitarian organisations, Fintechs and other companies launch quickly and focus on serving the customer.
Equity Bank Equity Bank will develop an unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) channel providing access to Equity Banks services directly on smartphone or feature phone. The services will range from opening accounts, linking cash-based transfer cards to Equity Bank accounts and transfer of funds from virtual wallets to Equity Bank accounts, sending money to/from Equity bank accounts from/to mobile wallets, purchase goods and services, receive remittances, get loans, withdraw money through agents and ATMs without use of debit cards, check balances and mini-statements as well as set and contribute to specific goals.
CARE Rwanda CARE has been working with refugees in forming savings groups (SGs). They intend to pilot linkage of entrepreneurs within the refugee camps to partner financial service providers (banks, MFIs, MNOs etc). The linkage will enable the entrepreneurs with micro businesses to access sufficient capital as well as other financial services that they otherwise do not have.
Airtel/TIGO and Umutanguha Airtel/TIGO and Umutanguha will work together to develop digital financial products that will allow refugees to have access to formal financial services and products while being in the camp. The proposed product will be convenient and easily accessible hence encouraging its uptake and usage. The product is still under development.


FSD Africa is also working with Worldremit and Useremit to introduce alternative remittance services to refugees in Rwanda and hopefully others in the region. The 2 will be running marketing campaigns for remittance products better tailored to refugees in terms of costs but also access where they will be able to cash out their money through mobile money or directly into their bank accounts within the camps.

In Uganda

In conjunction with FSD Uganda, a design sprint is scheduled to coincide with the World Refugee Day. The Sprint will run from 19th to 22nd June with refugees in Kampala and Kyangwali, a settlement close to the DR Congo border. Similar steps to those in Rwanda will be followed to build greater appreciation for the over 1.3 million refugees in the country as a potential market for financial services. An innovation competition will then be held to award grants to the most promising product concepts with the aim of scaling them to the settlements across the country.

Prior to the design sprint, FSD Uganda had in April 2018 organised customer journey mapping workshops for six banks – Diamond Trust Bank, Equity BankFINCAOpportunity InternationalPost BankUgafode – and a mobile network operator – Africell. The highlights of these workshops are captured in this blog. Customer journey mapping, also referred to as Experience Mapping, is a Human-Centered Design method that visualizes and synthesizes a person’s experience of a product, service, or business to communicate insights and takeaways, as well as guide areas for improvement and action.

In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Other than Rwanda and Uganda, FSD Africa in collaboration with ÉLAN RDC has embarked on a market sizing exercise in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The research firm has already been identified and work is expected to commence in June-July 2018. The research will assess the size and the scope of demand of goods and services from internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees in selected camps and their immediate neighbourhoods in the DRC. The research will also assess the consumption patterns and preferences, current use and future needs of financial services, informal employment and revenue levels of the target population. The research will collect enough market intelligence to make a sound business case for private sector stakeholders to profitably cater to the demand of this underserved market segment in the DRC. At the end of the research, a design sprint will be held with institutions that would want to engage with the refugees and displaced populations as a market segment.

For any questions, please contact Kuria Wanjau, Kuria@fsdafrica.org, Roselyne Uwamahoro roselyne@afr.rw, or Peter Kawumi pkawumi@fsduganda.or.ug