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Dr Naohiko Omata and Dr Josiah Kaplan (Humanitarian Innovation Project) write for Makeshift Magazine on trade and the bustling exchange among different refugee groups in the Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda

RSC / N Omata
One of many vibrant shops in the Nakivale settlement that help refugees achieve economic independence

Boda-bodas–motorbike taxis—buzz through the streets, seats fully loaded with layers of second-hand cloth. Minibuses offload crates of soft drinks and beer at retail shops. Street vendors hawk soap, matchboxes, and prepaid phone credits in congested markets, while others queue at money transfer booths. Commerce thrives in the business district of Nakivale, Uganda’s largest refugee settlement. Since the 1950s, Nakivale has opened its gate to people uprooted by civil war and persecution. It now houses 62,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Eritrea, and other neighboring countries. Its ground-level circulation of goods and services has helped maintain livelihoods among the temporary residents—systems often overlooked by Nakivale’s international funders.

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