Integrating refugees into West African economies

The Central Sahel is currently the fastest growing displacement crisis in the world, with ramifications for the wider West Africa region. Yet the ability for refugees and IDPs to play an active role in the economy is severely limited. 

In 2022, we collaborated with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) on a project funded by the Mastercard Foundation to conduct an assessment of economic opportunities and challenges for refugee and displaced youth in eight countries in West Africa: Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger and Mali.

Over a seven month period we deployed a nine-person research team to assess entry-points for economic integration of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the Central Sahel and wider West Africa. We conducted desk research and 70+ interviews in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal, then analysed critical barriers and opportunities to the economic integration of displaced populations.   

We developed recommendations to shape the Mastercard Foundation’s strategic approach to the region. These included digital solutions for identity and record storage; virtual universities; starting challenge funds; and supporting higher education institutions – areas which Mastercard Foundation will now scope and design as they build future programs.