Refugee entrepreneur Penina cutting hair
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Penina used to have a salon in South Sudan

Uganda is commonly known as among the best locations on the planet to be a refugee due to its welcoming insurance policies. However how do you rebuild your life – and begin earning money – having left every part you knew and held pricey? The BBC’s John Murphy has been discovering out.

“Beginning any enterprise shouldn’t be simple as a result of it is tough to get cash firstly,” Penina tells me.

Most entrepreneurs would inform you that. However think about how a lot tougher it’s if you end up dwelling in a refugee settlement in northern Uganda, having escaped struggle.

“It isn’t simple for the refugees to even get cash,” she continues.

“You see, they promote their very own issues like beans, they pay you with [cooking] oil, as a result of there’s nothing, there isn’t any cash.”

Penina fled South Sudan along with her 4 youngsters. She did not wish to. “I used to be not going to go away as a result of I like my nation, I like my house,” she says.

“However the worst factor is once I noticed a lady and a baby being killed. How may I, as a lady, proceed to remain in South Sudan when such issues are occurring, when ladies and youngsters are being killed?”

Her husband stayed behind. She says he refused to come back and, for a short time, they communicated by telephone. However his quantity not works and he or she would not know what has occurred.

‘Use your mind’

In accordance with the United Nations refugee company, the UNHCR, round 85% of the a couple of million South Sudanese refugees now in Uganda are ladies and youngsters.

They do get some assist from the UN, the worldwide support companies and the Ugandan authorities.

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Penina says she finds it therapeutic to work in her salon

They’re given plots of land – wild bush land – which they should clear and construct shelters on and, once they can, develop greens in.

They’re additionally given plastic sheeting to assemble their properties with, some cooking utensils and meals rations.

Nonetheless, a scarcity of worldwide assist has meant that within the final 12 months these month-to-month meals hand-outs have been reduce, and lots of refugees we met complained that the meals doesn’t really final the month.

That’s the place Penina has a bonus.

She has a talent. She was a hairdresser again in Yei, in South Sudan, and he or she has introduced that talent along with her.

She has additionally been a refugee in Uganda earlier than, within the late 1990s, when there was preventing between north and south Sudan.

It means she is aware of how issues work in Uganda and he or she has a community of native pals.


Uganda’s refugee inflow

Uganda noticed the biggest variety of refugees of some other nation in 2016, UN figures show.

  • The majority of the brand new arrivals (489,000) got here from South Sudan, with a smaller quantity (18,600) coming from Burundi
  • Greater than 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 refugees reside within the Bidi Bidi camp alone
  • Extra individuals arrived in Uganda in 2016 than crossed the Mediterranean into Europe

‘Why I gave my land to a refugee’

Is Uganda the best place to be a refugee?

Uganda hosts 1m South Sudan refugees


One particularly, who helped her arrange her hair salon in Imvepi refugee settlement.

The salon is, actually, a shack made from picket poles and UNHCR plastic sheeting.

Hanging from the poles are footage of hairstyles and an assortment of hair extensions.

There’s additionally a big poster of Jesus Christ. After I ask Penina the place her power comes from, she appears to be like to the sky. “That is God,” she says.

I level out that it’s her too.

“Sure,” she replies. “However it’s a must to use your mind. God has given me all this. I’ve to make use of my mind to do one thing, somewhat than keep idle.”

She says enterprise is gradual.

Typically the one manner for her to earn money, in order that she will purchase the issues she wants for her enterprise, is to take these meals rations the refugees give her in fee and to promote them, to get some money.

“What can we do? It is the situation we’re in.”

However her salon has proved therapeutic. “It is good if you simply chat collectively,” she explains.

“You overlook in regards to the stresses and different issues in South Sudan, the unhealthy issues individuals had been doing.”

‘Enterprise is booming’

Not far-off, I come throughout a younger man surrounded by piles of charcoal, which crunches underfoot.

It’s extensively utilized by each refugees and Ugandans for cooking.

“Enterprise is booming within the refugee camp,” says Abdul Karim Ali, a full of life 25-year-old Ugandan.

He comes from the native city, Arua, which within the wet season will be about an hour-and-a-half away, driving alongside muddy roads.

He explains how the South Sudanese refugees “treatment” the charcoal and he buys it from them, then transports it again to city to promote at a revenue.

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“In enterprise typically you win, typically you lose,” says Abdul Karim Ali

“Charcoal could be very costly on the town. However, as a result of situations, they promote it cheaply,” he says of the refugees.

“Some even promote their very own stuff, the issues given to them by the UN. We get lots of revenue from them.”

But that may be a harmful enterprise, he tells me.

The Ugandan authorities doesn’t like individuals taking advantage of the products handed out by the UN and the police may arrest you in the event that they discover you buying and selling in refugee objects.

“However we nonetheless purchase,” insists Mr Ali.

“In enterprise typically you win, typically you lose.”

His positivity is infectious. “Go searching,” he tells me. “We’re all blended up out there, South Sudanese and Ugandan, doing enterprise in order that we are able to survive higher.”

It’s true. Swathes of the north Ugandan countryside are being reworked.

It’s a part of the rationale why the Ugandan authorities has been so welcoming to the refugees.

What was unproductive bush land in a poor area is being cleared, markets are sprouting up within the settlements and small companies are rising roots.

With little signal of peace returning to South Sudan anytime quickly, the refugees should make new lives for themselves.

And a few native Ugandans are benefiting too.