Rethinking self-reliance and economic inclusion of refugees through a distributive lens: a case study from Uganda
This article examines trends in Uganda’s refugee protection model based on self-reliance and economic inclusion. It does this through a lens of distribution. While self-reliance and economic inclusion are increasingly centralised in the international refugee regime as tools of empowerment that benefit both refugees and their hosts, policymakers largely fail to consider the distribution and availability of local resources in promoting these ideas. Between 2013 and 2018, Uganda experienced a steep rise in the number of refugees within the country. Notwithstanding the global celebration of the Ugandan refugee policy, the empirical data demonstrate an increasingly demanding situation for refugees’ economic lives and ensuing difficulties in pursuing self-reliance. Implementing the Ugandan model without distributive thinking risks detrimental effects even for neighbouring host populations, who are also resource poor. Based on the perspectives of both refugees and host people, the article advances a debate about the efficacy of Uganda’s self-reliance and inclusion policies and concludes by pointing to the risks of framing the current Ugandan model as a ‘success’ for Africa’s refugee protection.