Mastercard and USAID, the United States' Agency for International Development, have announced their public-private coalition that is looking to transform refugee settlements in Afrika into digital communities. They hope to achieve this by bringing together technology, solutions, and experience from multiple sectors to transform refugee settlements into digitally-connected communities.

The public-private coalition will be led by Mastercard and USAID’s Power Africa initiative.

“We’ve spent the past several years testing and learning with our partners to take what we do well as a technology company and apply it to help solve this humanitarian crisis. Our payments technology has helped to reduce inefficiencies and expenses, add transparency, empower refugees, and stimulate local markets. Now we’re also acting as a force multiplier by combining our strengths with those of the coalition members to make an even bigger impact,” said Tara Nathan, Executive Vice President, Public Private Partnerships, at Mastercard.

During the first 6 months of 2018, the two organizations will be looking to launch pilot programs to address some of the biggest barriers to development, such as, mobile phones and Internet access, both of which are critical to refugees’ safety and security. As part of the coalition, they will be working together with other partners to introduce Internet and mobile connectivity, access to clean, efficient energy, and digital financial tools for refugee communities in Kenya and Uganda, with plans to scale to other refugee-hosting countries in Afrika and the rest of the world.

The coalition is made up of several organizations including BRCK, Accenture, and World Vision International among others.

“Accenture is proud to be a coalition member and to support the mission of this group. Our main goal is to help refugees have the connectivity they require through access to mobile phones and the internet. Connectivity will expand refugees’ access to critical vocational, health and safety information and services,” said Louise James, Managing Director at Accenture Development Partnerships.

The coalition complements the UN General Assembly endorsed Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and the Global Compact on Refugees, which seeks to ease pressure on host countries and enhance refugee self-reliance. Also, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and lead for the CRRF, has said that it welcomes innovative private-public approaches, like this one by Mastercard and USAID, to longstanding refugee situations that advance the sustainable development agenda and the CRRF.

Cover image credit: Mother and child at the 2016 launch of iAfrikan Digital's Xenowatch. | iAfrikan Digital