Lusaka — Refugees and former refugees are contributing positively to Zambia's economy, and have the potential to contribute further to the country's development if legal and other obstacles are removed, findings of a new study seen on Tuesday have shown.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Institute of Economic and Social Research of the University of Zambia, in technical partnership with the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, from October last year to January this year, targeted refugees living at two refugee camps in western and north-western Zambia, and former refugees from Rwanda and Angola living in some cities.
According to a statement from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Zambia, it was the first time in Zambia's 50 years of hosting refugees to formally obtain and document "feedback" from refugees and former refugees on their livelihoods, economic interaction and technological activities.
It added that the findings will provide useful information to the stakeholders in understanding the refugee economies in Zambia.
The finding comes at a time when the government is working on a new Refugee Bill, and it will enhance the bill especially on matters that relate to the economic impact of refugees' livelihood activities, the UNHCR statement said.
"The findings will help the UNHCR with information as we make livelihoods' interventions. Furthermore, it is our hope that the government of Zambia would consider the findings of this study to inform the future policies on refugees, especially with regard to the various reservations to the 1951 UN Convention," UNHCR representative in Zambia Laura Lo Castro said.
According to lead researcher Mushiba Nyamazana from the University of Zambia, the study specifically looked at the refugees and former refugees' capacity to invest and employ labour, consumption patterns for goods and services, contributions to human capital formation, and value chains' participation at small and medium-level enterprises.
It also looked at the use and impact of internet and information communication technology (ICT), and challenges faced by refugees and former refugees in livelihoods' activities.
According to the lead researcher, the refugees and former refuges in Zambia are doing everything possible, within the available legal and social space, to nurture a livelihood, a move that is making them contribute positively to Zambia's economy.
The study has also made some recommendations to unlock the potential of refugees and former refugees, such as relaxation on freedom of movement and reducing exorbitant fees to obtain a work permit, amongst others.
Zambia is host to 57 200 people of concern (refugees and former refugees), domiciled in the two refugee camps, urban areas, and those who are self-settled in other parts of the country, according to the UNHCR.