Dorcas is a mother of four children. She fled conflict in Jonglei, South Sudan, although her husband stayed behind. She runs a beauty shop in Nyumanzi refugee settlement, Uganda. “Before the business project, we used to sit idle in the settlement. Luckily, through this initiative, we have participated in training courses in small and medium enterprise management. We have teamed up into a group of four and opened this beauty shop. We also received a start-up kit composed of chairs and hair products to set us off,” she says.
She has rented a 5m by 5m room along one of the busy streets of Nyumanzi refugee camp. She pays a rent of 50,000 Uganda Shillings (11.5 Euros). From the earnings that she gets from plaiting clients ‘hair and selling beauty products, she is able to pay her rent and earn a small income. Although business is still slow at the moment, she is hopeful that it will pick up and succeed in the future.  
Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC
Read caption “From the earnings that I get from plaiting clients’ hair and selling beauty products, I'm able to pay my rent and earn a small income,” says Dorcas. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC

Starting a business in a refugee camp

Nashon Tado|Published 29. Aug 2017
In Uganda’s refugee settlements, refugee entrepreneurs get a chance to start a business and a new life.

Uganda now hosts more than one million South Sudanese, who have fled across the border since the start of the war in 2013. In addition, Uganda hosts over 227,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

With funding support from the European Commission Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides vocational and entrepreneurial training for refugees in Nyumanzi and Rhino settlements in northern Uganda.

Dorcas’s beauty salon

Dorcas is a mother of four. She fled the conflict in Jonglei, South Sudan. Today, she runs a beauty shop in the Nyumanzi refugee settlement in Uganda. 

“Before the business project, we had nothing to do in the settlement,” she says. After participating in the enterprise management training, she has teamed up with three others to run a beauty shop in the settlement.

The shop is situated in one of the busy streets of Nyumanzi. Dorcas spends her days plaiting clients’ hair and selling beauty products. From what she earns, she is able to pay her share of the shop’s rent and earn a small income. Although business is fairly slow, she hopes it will pick up in the near future.

Tabio Roza (47) is mother of six children who is a member of the 'Union fait la force' women and men's group in Rhino camp of Uganda. She has set up a grocery shop at Ocea in Rhino camp.
'My first business experience was doing charcoal business. I used to sell charcoal back in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. But when I came to Uganda, I could not sustain my charcoal business, it was very difficult. I received training and capital from NRC and chose to go into the grocery business instead', she explains. 
What made her to leave the DRC? Joseph Kony and his rebel troops had arrived at Faraji, her home area, having entered the eastern part of the DRC, and were engaging in atrocities such as torture, burning houses, raping women and girls and killing people. She decided to escape to save her life. 
Her business earns her a profit of approximately 80 Uganda Shillings per day. She earns 50 Uganda Shillings during the lean season. The most marketable goods in her stock include tomatoes, chicken sauce, and masala tea.
Photo: NRC/Nashon Tado
Read caption Tabio, 47, sells tea and tomatoes in her shop. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC

Tabio's grocery shop

Forty-seven-year-old Tabio is a mother of six children. She runs a grocery shop in Rhino refugee settlement in northern Uganda.

“I used to sell charcoal back in Goma, in DR Congo,” she says. She has participated in NRC’s enterprise management training and is now running a grocery shop where she sells tomatoes and tea, among other things.

Tabio escaped her home country when armed groups arrived in her neighbourhood.

“They tortured people, burned houses, raped women and girls and killed people,” Tabio recalls. “I decided to escape to save my life and that of my family.”

Sarah Nyakek (22) is one of the trainees from NRC's Vocational skills training centre in Rhino camp who has finished her tailoring course and is looking forward to setting up a shop in Ocea refugee settlement zone. She crossed borders into Uganda coming from Malakal in Upper Nile state of South Sudan. She is a mother of three children. 'I look forward to a fruitful business involvement,' she says. Photo: NRC/Nashon Tado
Read caption “I look forward to a fruitful business involvement,” says Nyakek. Photo: Nashon Tado/NRC

Nyakek’s tailor shop

Nyakek, 22, is a mother of three and a refugee from South Sudan.

Having finished her tailoring course at NRC's vocational training centre in Rhino settlement, she is eager to run her own shop.

“I look forward to a fruitful business,” she says.

Twenty seven year-old Ayikobua Joseph is a refugee from Congo's Ituri Province who now lives at Ocea zone of Rhino refugee settlement of northern Uganda. He fled Ituri back in 2005 following rebel advances and social instability. Now he is a father of three children, the oldest being nine years and the youngest three years old. He is among the second group of vocational skill trainees at Rhino camp who were waiting for graduation and certification as at 10th May 2017. But he is not sitting idle or basking in his completion feat. He is forward looking. He wants to put his skills to the market. He has bought some electronic tool kits that he is using in his trade, These include a tester, multi-meter, a set of  screw drivers, long nose pliers and a soldering gun. "Clients are coming for my services. Now as we speak I have five clients who have deposited faulty electronic gadgets that they want me to fix," he explains. On his table there is a radio which needs a power IC replacement and volume control adjustment, an inverter whose transformer has blown and mobile phones with faulty screens. He sits on the verandah of an electronics shop and pays the owner of the shop about 2,000 Uganda Shillings to use the space. He has some space adjacent to the shop but he has not constructed a stall yet due to financial constraints. 
Ayikobua likes his trade. He feels inspired to be able to use his hands to solve people's problems. He looks forward to receiving his cerificate as well as NRC start-up kit that will boost his resources. He recommends that NRC supports his need for electricity, which is the basic component in all the he does. The VST project is funded by ECHO. Photo: NRC/Nashon Tado
Read caption “I have five clients who have deposited faulty electronic gadgets that they want me to fix,” explains Ayikobua, 27.

Ayikobua’s electronics

Twenty-seven-year-old Ayikobua fled armed groups and instability in DR Congo in 2005. Today, he is a father of three and a participant in the electronics course at NRC’s vocational training in Rhino camp.

Although he’s still waiting to graduate and officially earn his certification, Ayikobua already has clients. They come to him to repair their radios, mobile phones and other electronic devices.

“I have five clients who have deposited faulty electronic gadgets that they want me to fix,” he explains.

Ayikobua likes his trade.

“I like being able to use my hands to solve people’s problems,” he says, looking forward to receiving his certificate and a start-up kit that will help him officially launch a shop.