• Refugee tech innovators in Uganda

    Imogen Mathers


Refugees working alongside Ugandans as tailors in Kampala.

Refugee Studies Centre

Workers making MakaPads womens sanitary pads made from recycled office paper and locally grown papyrus at a factory in a refugee settlement. The pads are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than imported products.

L. Bloom/Refugee Studies Centre

A Congolese refugee repairman in Kyangwali refugee settlement.

J. Kaplan/Refugee Studies Centre

A handmade wooden bike for transporting goods in Kyangwali refugee settlement. Such bikes are made from locally available resources, including wood and old vehicle tyres.

L. Bloom/Refugee Studies Centre

Demou-Kay, a Congolese refugee, running his radio station in Nakivale settlement. It is the only station in Nakivale, and is staffed by a team of young refugees, alongside Demou-Kay.

Rocco Nuri/UNHCR

Demou-Kay built this radio transmitter from second-hand electrical parts and a mobile phone.

Refugee Studies Centre

An adapted bicycle for sharpening farm tools in Nakivale refugee settlement.

N. Omata/Refugee Studies Centre

A traditional Congolese cassava grinder crafted by a refugee using handmade tools in Kyangwali refugee settlement. The refugee now makes a living selling these wooden grinders to other Congolese refugees in Kyangwali.

Refugee Studies Centre

Juru weekly market in Nakivale refugee settlement.

L. Bloom/Refugee Studies Centre

Contrary to popular myths about refugees relying on aid and being a burden to the countries hosting them, the refugees in these photographs are running thriving enterprises, often based around the adaptation of different technologies.
Whether sharpening tools, making sanitary pads from local materials or producing radio shows, these refugees — mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Somalia — run businesses that use technology in diverse and creative ways. These enterprises reveal how refugees create sustainable livelihoods and contribute to the wider economy.
The photographs were taken by researchers from the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, during fieldwork  in Uganda for their report, Refugee economies: Rethinking popular assumptions, which is published today, on World Refugee Day.  To hear more about their research, listen to our podcast with HIP director, Alexander Betts, here.