Municipal Finance Press Release

The Power of Refugee Partnership in Kampala

Uganda is home to approximately 1.5 million registered refugees, making it one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world. In Kampala alone, the refugee population is estimated to be 120,000.

In the wake of the country’s Covid-19 lockdowns, schools across the country remained closed for nearly two years — the longest interruption in education stemming from the pandemic anywhere in the world. Furthermore, many migrants and refugees in Kampala, reliant on informal daily wages for income, fell into extreme poverty as services were cut or reduced due to a tightening of government budgets..

At the height of the pandemic, Kampala’s Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago, began personally distributing food and PPE to residents who couldn’t afford groceries or supplies, including migrants and refugees.

“I wanted to be responsive to the residents in our great city, which is why I took the initiative to deliver essential supplies myself to those who are in greatest need,” he said, “We will recover from this pandemic and come back stronger by helping each other through this unprecedented crisis.”

Recognizing the need to enhance the city’s capacity to deliver aid efforts in direct cooperation with refugees themselves, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) partnered with Makasi Rescue Foundation (MRF), led by Gloria Asiimwe, a Congolese refugee living in Uganda. In this all-too-rare partnership between a city government and a refugee-led organization, through financial and technical support from the Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees (GCF), KCCA and MRF are providing financial relief, payment of school fees for students, and entrepreneurship support to communities hardest hit by the economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hand-in-hand with Kampala’s city government, MRF delivered cash assistance to 400 refugees, migrants, and low-income frontline workers.

After seeing many refugee guardians struggle to pay Kampala school enrollment fees after a long hiatus in education, MRF leveraged GCF funding and its partnership with KCCA schools to identify 50 refugee students, the majority of them girls, to cover their school fees, meals, and scholastic materials. The assistance buys time for families to save and budget for their children’s enrollment for the next school year while ensuring marginalized youth continue their studies.

Adding to the project’s impact, MRF’s vocational courses in auto-mechanics, cosmetology, and dress-making graduated 32 entrepreneurs and provided them with seed funding from the GCF to start their own micro-enterprises and support to register their businesses in Kampala.

Kampala doubled down on its commitment to serve displaced residents when it participated in our 4Mi Cities data collection project with the Mixed Migration Centre, which surveyed migrants and refugees across various city districts to better understand barriers to service delivery and improve local migration policy. In response to the research results, which revealed that many migrants and refugees were not aware of the services offered by the city, KCCA pledged to engage more refugee and migrant leaders in Kampala, including through peer-to-peer trainings, to deepen awareness and coordination of services among stakeholders.

Kampala’s success showcases the countless benefits of city governments and refugee-led organizations coming together to deliver solutions for urban residents. While cities make and regulate policies to offer migrants and refugees better chances at creating sustainable livelihoods, refugee-led organizations’ valuable knowledge about marginalized residents’ priorities and built-in trust among community leaders helps to enhance access to critical services and resources for everyone in the city.

As a team, KCCA and MRF are accomplishing far more together than they would apart and improving the prospects of all newcomers in the city.

Local students participate in a Makasi Rescue Foundation-supported English class.

32 clients in Makasi Rescue Foundation’s training are receiving seed funding to start their business

Hear more from Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and Gloria Asiimwe of Makasi Rescue Foundation

December 7, 2022

The Mayors Migration Council and the Bristol City Council, in partnership with key collaborators, are hosting City + Refugee Collaboration: Local Partnerships, Global Impact, a digital event to highlight city government-refugee partnerships as an impactful response to urban displacement.

The event will showcase mayor-refugee partnerships from Bristol, U.K. and Kampala, Uganda while highlighting the global potential of these local partnerships.


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