Empowering Displaced People and Communities: A Call to Action

World Humanitarian Day & World Refugee Day 2021

Patrick Ojok was the first BrightLife customer in Kiryandongo settlement in Uganda as a result of the USAID/Power Africa De-Risking PAYGO Solar Home System project
Patrick Ojok was the first BrightLife customer in Kiryandongo settlement in Uganda as a result of the USAID/Power Africa De-Risking PAYGO Solar Home System project. Photo Credit: BrightLife

COVID-19 introduced new challenges and threats to health and livelihoods, exacerbating the situation for over 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. The pandemic highlights their urgent needs for sustainable access to energy and other technologies, including electricity for domestic and business use, fuel for cooking, and platforms to pay for — and be paid for — goods and services.

Fulfilling these needs requires cross-sector partnerships that can finance and mobilize innovative solutions that shift focus from short-term relief towards durable service delivery.

The Smart Communities Coalition (SCC), co-founded and co-chaired by USAID/Power Africa and Mastercard in 2018, calls for a collective effort to respond to the plight of refugees and provide adequate, sustained access to energy, connectivity and digital tools.

What we have done so far

This year, our SCC Innovation Fund (SCCIF) awarded grants to four companies that will use renewable energy technologies to increase access to electricity in refugee-hosting areas of Kenya and Uganda. Supported by Power Africa, the awardees will implement activities that benefit nearly 3,500 displaced and host community households with improved energy and business opportunities, from solar-powered poultry businesses to e-bikes and solar-powered cargo tricycles.

The SCCIF is designed to transform how we address forced displacement, highlighting innovative, locally rooted solutions that advance economic and social inclusion, and shifting from short-term relief towards durable service delivery.

Solar power for stimulating local enterprise in Arua and Lamwo settlements in Uganda. Photo Credit: EleQtra

In Uganda, one of the winners is a consortium led by a local cooperative made up of both refugees and host community members. As the cooperative chairman described, “We look forward to achieving a positive impact and scale-up to more people for not leaving anyone without access to energy, water and digital services, regardless if they are refugees, displaced or host communities.”

What we can all do now

Since our founding in 2018, the SCC has learned several valuable lessons related to funding service delivery in displaced communities:

OffGridBox solar PV system powering productive use activities in Ikungi, Ikungi District, Tanzania. Photo Credit: OffGridBox

To help us further empower displaced communities, we issue the following call to action to our colleagues:

Join the SCC to drive multi-sector partnerships for positive change in the humanitarian space! Feel free to contact us at SCC@mastercard.com.

SCC Links & Resources