Refugees and Displaced Persons

The Mastercard Foundation announced today its goal to enable 2.5 million refugees and displaced persons in host communities in Africa to secure dignified and fulfilling livelihoods. This goal is part of the Foundation’s overall Young Africa Works strategy, which aims to enable 30 million young Africans, especially young women, to access dignified and fulfilling work by 2030.

Africa is home to nearly one-third of the world’s refugees and displaced population. Young women represent a significant proportion of this population. The Foundation recognizes that refugees and those displaced have talents and aspirations to contribute to Africa’s economic transformation.

Consultations with young refugees, displaced persons and refugee-led organizations influenced the Foundation’s strategy. They called for action to expand access to quality secondary education and pathways to higher education, entrepreneurship, and employment. Accordingly, the Mastercard Foundation is deploying more than $360 million across all of its programs to support refugees and displaced persons. This includes:

1. Expanding Foundation programs in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, where the Foundation is implementing Young Africa Works. These programs will support refugees and displaced persons as well as their host communities.

2. Expanding access to skills and entrepreneurship. These programs, implemented by Foundation partners, including Inkomoko and the Amahoro Coalition, seeks to develop skills, transition young refugees and displaced persons into employment or entrepreneurship and engage the private sector.

3. Enabling Refugee-led Organizations. Refugee-led organizations are trusted by their communities and already working on innovative solutions. For example, the Foundation is partnering with the Youth Initiative for Development in Africa to provide early childhood education and skills building to young refugees and host communities in Kyaka II settlement in Uganda.

4. Expanding access to higher education. In 2019, the Foundation set a target that 25 percent of students recruited into the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program will be refugees and displaced persons. The Foundation also funds the African Higher Education in Emergencies Network (AHEEN) to support access for these young people into accredited higher education institutions.

5. Partnering with UNHCR to support Sudanese women and girls. In response to the dire humanitarian crisis in Sudan, the Mastercard Foundation will provide $25 million to UNHCR to offer critical support in education, livelihoods, and economic inclusion. The partnership will:

  • Accelerate access to secondary and higher education, particularly for girls and young women by re-opening schools, providing educational materials, training, and support for teachers. The program helps young people to re-enter higher education and strengthens UNHCR’s education coordination and advocacy to include refugees and displaced students in national education systems.
  • Deliver livelihood and economic inclusion programs by supporting livelihood assessment needs, tertiary and vocational skills training.
  • Strengthen safeguarding and protect women from gender-based violence.
  • Promote entrepreneurship through access to finance, mentorship, and grants for youth and women-led enterprises.


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