12:30 – 14:00 CET : Promoting Entrepreneurship For Migrants And Refugees for Inclusive And Sustainable Development in Partnership with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

October 18, 2021


The objective of this session was to inspire the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of inclusive entrepreneurship policies and joint solutions aimed at migrants and refugees for socioeconomic inclusion, integration, social cohesion and sustainable development. The event built on the work of the partnership among UNCTAD, UNHCR and the IOM within the development and rollout of the policy guidance on entrepreneurship for migrants and refugees.

It reflected on lessons learnt during practical implementation notably in East Africa, the Andean region and the Middle East. Furthermore, it outlined key elements for future inclusive entrepreneurship policies and the importance of partnerships in a post COVID-19 recovery, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR).

Session Highlights

The purpose of the session was to discuss that the world would not look the same without entrepreneurship and how vulnerable groups including migrants and refuges contribute to economies and communities by taking up entrepreneurship. The purpose is to have them be included by making entrepreneurial policies which facilitate their growth and community integration to create support group network for them. The session was conducted in partnership with International organisation for migration (IOM) and United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).

The issues discussed were:

  1. What role can entrepreneurship play in supporting the inclusion and integration of migrants and refugees?
  2. What specific entrepreneurship policy and practical measures are needed to remove barriers and facilitate socioeconomic inclusion and integration in local economies?
  3. What are some good practices as well as challenges and lessons learnt in facilitating entrepreneurship for migrants and refugees based on a whole of society approach?
  4. What initiatives at national, regional and global levels can be pursued to promote entrepreneurship for migrants and refugees?

To address said issues the Panellists discussed that refugees and migrants are usually not associated with the idea of entrepreneurship even though they are more resolute and risk aware. The willingness to do more for themselves and their community is strong in such diaspora and thus they are better able to take such steps. The refugees however lack knowledge of regulation, bureaucracy and thus limiting them from identifying obstacles. Entrepreneurship is a driver for innovation. And with better knowledge transfer and gap bridging of resources, information and support they can be better integrated economically and socially.

It was addressed by the Panellists that there is need to review the intersection between migration and entrepreneurship as even though businesses of migrants tend to be micro or small businesses but a large number of fortune 500 businesses were either founded by migrants and or children of migrants. Migrants are leading the innovation cycle and their contribution in Europe alone is 900 million euros. The work surrounding community assimilation and diaspora engagement allows for entrepreneurial ventures to be successful and more diversified.

The discussion was taken forward by deliberation on policy limitations and broadening of those policy guidelines and tools for public and private partnership in promoting migrant entrepreneurship. There is also a need for policy awareness and ground level supports to small businesses which are migrant-owned and support to families in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. The Panellists all agreed that the contribution of refugees to the economies can’t be ignored as they continue to do so while being displaced. The displaced have been contributing to the economies and providing contributions even while displaced.

The discussion also involved the questions as to why private sector should think about investing in refugees and therein increasing their entrepreneurial ventures. It is more about providing the refugees with equitable access to opportunities and allows them to get over the poverty line, have better education opportunity and then give back to the diaspora communities by initiating entrepreneurial ventures and creating more employment opportunities. A lack of opportunity in a refugee’s life can lead to despair and often result in violence and clashes with the law enforcement.

The Panellists discussed that refugees do not enter entrepreneurship ventures due to financial knowledge gap, lack of Subject matter training, lack of infrastructure and skill gap as well. There are over 4 million refugees and 2 million of them are of the working age. Funds should be available. Immense community legislations to benefit from government grants, financial aids etc. Language skills and prior profession is a key for successful conversion to entrepreneurship. The refugees are able to use specific funds for their entrepreneurial ventures and also create projects and success stories in the homeland country. For E.g. a Syrian artiste was designer of dresses and is now doing wedding dress design in turkey with stores in multiple locations.

They also argued that financial institutions do not think of refugees as viable options for lending money as they are considered to more risky and that they do not have entrepreneurial abilities. However, the Panellists disagreed with this belief and cited instance where working with refugees has helped in achieving better results. Hiring loan officers which are refugees bridged the language, reliability, culture and accessibility gap which was especially helpful during the pandemic. Refugees become entrepreneurs out of necessity and thus require more skill and Domain knowledge. To manage expectations from community and diaspora with limited business activity knowledge makes refugees more valuable. There is a challenge for refugees as a lack of local professional network leads to lack of mentorship. There is a lack of finance which can be navigated with fundraising and seed financing also.

Finally the key question was how governments can make it viable for refugees to turn entrepreneurs. For example: in Kenya the government is giving a movement pass and the refugees who want to initiate a business are given instruction from government and the businesses are not taxed for refugees. Refugees have a strong willingness to go through a lengthy process are open to dealing with government. When discussing the challenges and way forward the Panellists were of the view that there is a need for integration and providing opportunities to the refugees as the journey of entrepreneurships needs partners, community of locals and clientele support. There is a need for main stream discourse on refugee entrepreneurship.


  • Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary General, UNCTAD
  • Raouf Mazou, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • Ugoshi Daniels, Deputy Director General for Operations, International Organization for Migration (IOM).

On the panel was:

  • Innocent Havyarimana, CEO, GLAP enterprises

Panel Experts on Policy and Implementation were:

  • Ali Ercan Su, Senior EU Expert, Directorate General of International Labour Force, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Turkey
  • Philippe Guichandut, Head of Inclusive Finance Development, Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation
  • Adrienn Gyory, Social Policy Expert and Programme Manager, CapacityZurich
  • Adel Karoui, CEO, K Consulting, Management Consultant and President, Albideya Association


  • Margareta Drzeniek, Managing Partner, Horizon Group