A New Model to Help the 2.6 Million People Living in Refugee Camps Around the World

Over the past decade, I’ve spent most of my time working with young people around the world to help them create meaningful lives for themselves through entrepreneurship.

I’ve seen how the entrepreneurial mindset can transform seemingly unmotivated and insecure students into powerful leaders with great ambitions to solve big problems and make the world a better place.

I believe that entrepreneurship can be a vehicle to solve complex problems, create opportunities, jobs and meaning, even for people who are living in extreme conditions, and this year I’ve decided to put my thesis to the test.

In July 2019, I’m traveling to one of the world’s largest refugee settlements called Kakuma Camp located in the North-Western region of Kenya, to run an entrepreneurship training program for a group of 30 community leaders. The objective is to demonstrate that it is possible to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in refugee camps, and that refugees who are permitted to start new businesses can become self-sufficient.

Since January I’ve been working with WEF and a group of Young Global Leaders to design a training program for refugee entrepreneurs, and the whole process has been an incredible learning experience for me personally. Many of the people in the group have lived and worked in Kakuma and other refugee camps for years and through their guidance I’m starting to understand the many challenges that refugees face.

Contrary to what most people believe I have learned that refugees in many regions spend an average of 26 YEARS living in refugee camps. This data point was shocking to me because it means that such camps aren’t temporary living establishments, they are permanent cities where people live big parts of their lives and raise their families.

I’ve learned that most host countries don’t allow refugees to work which makes it extremely hard for refugees to create better lives for themselves. As an entrepreneur who’s always been self-employed I can’t imagine living under such constrains and not be able to work to improve my own situation.

After months of talking to UNHCR, DCA, DRC and several other organizations working with refugees I’m still learning every day and I’m approaching this task with great humility. I’m fully aware that teaching entrepreneurship in a refugee context is very different from how it works in Silicon Valley and that we’ll need to modify the process to this environment.

However, I’m convinced that it’s possible to create a new model for entrepreneurship in refugee camps and I believe that by developing a new blueprint for entrepreneurial ecosystems in refugee camps we can convince host countries to allow refugees to start and operate their own businesses. If refugees are enabled to be entrepreneurs it will ultimately change the negative perception many people have of them and help people view refugees as resourceful individuals who can contribute to economic growth.

We have a long journey ahead of us and I’m super excited to be able to run the first program this summer in Kakuma Camp. The goal for this program is to empower the refugee entrepreneurs by providing them with Coaching, Capital and Connections to the global entrepreneurship community. We will run a 1-week in-person program in July followed by a 12-week Business Acceleration Program that includes virtual and in-person training and mentorship as well as access to capital.

To make this program truly impactful WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT. We are looking for donations to start a small sustainable impact investment fund that can provide scholarships and funding for startups in Kakuma Camp and later in other refugee camps around the world.

The money we raise will be used to support refugee entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses, hire more refugee employees and create positive impact in their community. The money will be offered as zero-interest business loans that the entrepreneurs will pay back within a certain timeframe so the money can be recycled to empower the next cohort of entrepreneurs.

THANK YOU for your interest in following our journey and please consider supporting us by making a donation and/or by sharing this page.

Reach out anytime if you want to get involved or if you have ideas you want to discuss.

Henrik Scheel
Founder, Startup Experience Inc.
[email protected]