Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within.
Uganda is currently the largest-refugee hosting country in Africa, and the fifth largest globally . According to the UNHCR, 951,713 refugees have fled to Uganda from South Sudan; 444,308 hail from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); 42,036 are from Burundi; 25,726 from Rwanda, and 56,894 from Somalia. Many of these refugees enter the host country in a destitute state, in need of food, shelter, basic amenities and core financial services for survival. In Uganda, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations’ refugee agency, coordinates with the Government of Uganda and humanitarian partners to provide emergency assistance and protection to refugees in border areas and relocate them to refugee settlements in the short term.
However over the years, Uganda’s national services and systems have been inundated with demand from refugees. Uganda was already hosting over 1.5 million refugees at the start of 2022, and within the same year received an additional 130,000 refugees from the DRC and South Sudan who fled violent conditions to find safety in Uganda, putting further pressure on an overstretched humanitarian response. Additionally, global funding shortfalls have forced UNHCR and World Food Program (WFP) to introduce cuts to their aid to refugees in several operations across the world, including Uganda. Currently, Uganda is one of UNHCR’s most underfunded operations, with just 46% of US$ 343.4 million received for 2022. These developments highlight one core insight: while immediate humanitarian aid is critical for refugee communities, economic opportunity is needed for longer-term stability of refugees - and this opportunity is most meaningfully delivered through private sector markets. Empirical evidence also suggests that unlocking access to finance for refugees is not only crucial to enhancing their livelihood but is also an important contributor to a country’s GDP . This makes efforts directed at improving access to finance for forcibly displaced persons significant to nation building.
But the business of delivering financial services to refugees is far from simple. Due to the large number of refugees in-country, their diverse countries of origin, and the varying lengths of displacement, offering financial services to this demographic is complex and riddled with many barriers. A recent Mercy Corps/Kiva assessment conducted in 2021 on the state of financial services for refugees in Uganda highlighted that many FSPs are hesitant to work with refugees for fear of financial loss. They perceive refugees as a flight risk, or too risky to serve due to no credit history, few fixed assets, and limited collateral. For FSPs already serving refugees, it is operationally complex due to remote locations, stringent Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements, the lack of sharia compliant products, and insufficient low cost, patient capital to invest in starting or growing refugee finance portfolios.
These challenges are compounded by the capacity skills gaps of refugees in Uganda. Refugees, particularly women, tend to have insufficient knowledge and capacities to access, and use financial services to grow their incomes or build resilience. According to a recent survey led by Urban Refugees of 21 RLOs in Kampala, only 38% of their members have a bank account, and 85% receive their income in cash. The main reasons cited for this are their lack of information on financial services, limited understanding of legal and administrative processes to access these services, and low levels of financial literacy . Most refugees lack any banking experience, and many refugee-led micro-enterprises are started with little or no business skills to ensure profitability.
Mercy Corps’ \"Refugee Finance to Grow Income, Assets and Resilience through Bundled Services in Uganda\" (ReFine) program is a three-year French Development Agency (AFD)-funded initiative that aims to address the root causes limiting the supply of, demand for, and cost-effective use of financial services for refugees in Uganda. The primary goal of ReFine is to enable 2,000 refugees to access and benefit from financial services to improve their incomes, increase their assets, and improve their self reliance. It achieves this by improving refugee digital and financial literacy and by channelling low-cost, risk-tolerant capital through financial institutions to refugee businesses and farms. The program has a dual geographical focus in Uganda – the West Nile region including areas such as Yumbe, Terego/Madi Okollo, Arua - and then in Kampala and its environs.
The program is a three-year partnership between Mercy Corps, Kiva (the world’s first online crowdlending platform) and Cohere (an NGO offering direct capacity building support to refugee-led businesses in Uganda), to enable urban and settlement-based refugees in Kampala and West Nile to access and benefit from inclusive financial product offerings. It is being implemented through three Financial Service Providers or FSPs (namely UGAFODE, FINCA Uganda, and VisionFund Uganda) and five Refugee Led Organizations (RLOs) that are existing partners of Kiva and Cohere respectively. Mercy Corps manages the overall program, coordinates funding among the two anchor partners, ensuring coordination between implementing partners, and providing or securing the relevant technical support for program partners.
Kiva will provide their partner FSPs access to their low-interest and risk-tolerant capital and work closely with Mercy Corps on FSPs’ institutional strengthening. The FSPs will also receive technical assistance towards the development and adaptation of new and existing financial products and services to refugee and women’s needs and will be helped to design appropriate business and outreach models for scaling refugee financing. Cohere will build the organizational and technical capacity of RLOs to represent different groups of refugees with FSPs and other partners and help their members access financial services. Through coordinated business clinics, the RLOs will enable their clients understand and meet KYC and other regulatory requirements for accessing financial services; They will enable refugee businessmen and women to develop their financial and digital literacy, and benefit from access to support centres/drop-in clinics to help their businesses navigate legal and regulatory requirements for accessing financial services.
Scope and Objectives:
Within the context of the ReFine program, Mercy Corps is looking for consultants to offer technical assistance to build the capacity of three partner financial institutions. The technical assistance has been designed with the view of accomplishing two core objectives:Equip financial institutions to develop in-house capabilities (at the conceptual, operational, marketing and outreach levels) to serve the refugee market in Uganda profitably, • Enable financial institutions to make product, marketing and channel related changes that improve financial services delivery to the refugee market segment;
A key industry-related outcome of this technical assistance would be to assemble a Human Centred Design toolkit of relevant resources (SOPs, design approaches, lessons learned, frameworks, etc.) specific to product development, marketing and outreach that can shared broadly with financial institutions within the refugee finance landscape in Uganda.
In evaluating the proposals and identifying the most suitable consultants, Mercy Corps will consider the suitability of consultants to execute against a specific theme depending on their capabilities and expertise. The theme for this technical assistance is described below:
Theme: Curriculum Development and Institutional Staff Training on Refugee Finance.
The overall objective of the assignment is to increase knowledge of FSP staff about the unique needs of refugees, eliminate perceptual biases and stereotypes about their needs and offerings, and strengthen the capacities of staff to serve them operationally. Two partner financial institutions will receive this support over a period of five months and are likely to be supported serially. For both institutions, the support will comprise two major phases:Curriculum Development Institutionalization
Curriculum Development Phase (6 weeks):
The consultant will develop a comprehensive curriculum that addresses key knowledge and skills gaps that prevent both frontline and back-office staff of FSPs from effectively serving refugee and host populations. The thematic focus of the curriculum for the first institution will feature key gaps such as:Perceptual biases about refugee financial attitudes and risk profiles, Gaps around refugee psychosocial needs and how to close them. Knowledge gaps on appropriately segmenting refugee groups and tailoring marketing materials and collateral requirements to their nuanced needs, Skills gaps in loan portfolio and recovery management Understanding of the social aspects embedded in credit processes such as consumer protection for vulnerable groups. Gaps on effectively leveraging key partnerships such as Refugee Led Organizations, agricultural partners, as well as partners in trade and commerce to target and promote financial products and services.
The second institution will be the recipient of a comprehensive curriculum that addresses key knowledge and skills gaps in refugee loan portfolio management, credit and recovery management, and the tailoring of an existing financial product to refugee groups such as smallholder farmers. The thematic focus of the curriculum will comprise the following:Administration of refugee loan procedures, loan portfolio monitoring and arrears prevention • Supervision and control aspects including cash flow management, cross checking client data and prioritization of refugee loan requests. Credit and recovery management skills for lending staff (including loan appraisal techniques, write offs) Effective client management principles and techniques such as customer care or response times and stakeholder management Social aspects embedded in credit processes such as consumer protection for vulnerable groups. • Segmentation and marketing of existing financial products to the needs of agricultural actors in the refugee context, particularly small holder farmers
The above-mentioned themes are exhaustive but the consultant will be responsible for further clarifying specific support areas with both financial institutions and the ReFine team during the inception period. However, the actual development of the curriculum’s content will commence only after tacit approval from the management of both financial institutions. The comprehensive curriculum should target both senior management and functional staff of the client FSPs and should include learning aids and props to ensure maximum comprehension. Following development of the curriculum, the consultant will share the draft with the client FSPs for feedback and adjustment.
Institutionalization Phase (4 weeks):
This phase will be identical for both institutions and will follow the ratification of the draft training curriculum and tools. It will involve the rapid development of a trainer of trainers (ToT) curriculum, the execution of a ToT programme for key headquarters and branch staff of the client FSPs, and a review phase to evaluate feedback from the trainees on how to adjust the ToT curriculum and exercise to aid understanding and engagement from the ultimate recipients of the curriculum. The capstone activity for this phase will include the development of an institutionalization strategy for rollout across each FSP client’s network of refugee serving branches.
Key Deliverables:Inception report highlighting the scope of work and deliverables. Draft institutional curriculum tailored to the needs of the FSP client. Trainer of trainer’s curriculum and workplan Teaching and learning aids and materials Institutionalization strategy for rollout within the FSP client End of project report detailing all activities conducted, learnings and recommendations for the institutionalization of the training.
Required Skills, Education and Experience:A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in the Behavioral Sciences or another related field is required. A Masters Degree or equivalent in Business Administration, Financial Services, Economics or related subjects would be an added advantage. Human Centered Design training. At least three years’ experience in applying Human Centered Design to develop and deliver training content is required. Solid experience in working with forcibly displaced persons within the financial, social or humanitarian contexts is required. Experience in working with refugee youth, including savings groups, will be an added advantage. At least three years’ experience in developing financial education curricula / programs preferably for financial institutions or corporate entities. At least 4 years of experience in banking and microfinance At least three years’ experience in agricultural finance or in marketing or adapting financial products to the needs of smallholder farmers and agricultural value chain actors Experience in providing similar technical assistance and coaching in micro-lending methodologies to staff of financial institutions. Experience in training master trainers Experience packaging knowledge products in innovative ways Current / previous experience in East Africa, preferred.
Timeline, total number of working days, duty station:Duration: Five months in total for the two financial institution clients, expected to be from mid-June through mid-October 2023. Expected number of consultant-working days for both assignments: 60 daysLocation(s): Kampala.
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