As I witnessed the official launch of the Saving One Million Lives Program for Results (SOML PforR), a government-led initiative supported by a $500 million World Bank International Development Association credit, I was overcome by several emotions, the foremost of which was hope.
For several decades now, Uganda has been generously hosting refugees and asylum seekers from the conflict-affected countries in its neighborhood, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. Since achieving its independence in 1962, the country has been hosting an average of approximately 161,000 refugees per year; and the numbers crossed 550,000 in August 2016. In three weeks since the latest fighting in South Sudan broke out on 8 July, nearly 37,491 people were forced to flee to Uganda, more than in the first six months of 2016, according to UNHCR.
Smallholder farmers, even those in structured value chains such as cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, are largely unable to access banks, microfinance institutions and other formal financial institutions. Providing meaningful financial services to these customers in an affordable and sustainable manner is a great challenge.