Economic Impact of Refugee Settlements in Uganda

This policy report presents the findings of a study conducted in two refugee settlements in Uganda, focusing on the economic impact of refugees and the assistance provided by the World Food Programme (WFP). The study reveals that refugees contribute significantly to the local economy, increasing annual real income for both refugee and host-country households. It highlights the positive economic benefits generated by refugees and emphasizes the importance of providing assistance in the form of cash or food aid. The report also explores the impact of providing land to refugee farmers, showing that access to land further enhances their economic contributions. Overall, the study provides valuable insights for policymakers and organizations working in refugee assistance.


The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), explores the economic impact of refugee settlements in Uganda. The study focuses on two settlements, Adjumani and Rwamwanja, and examines the effects of both refugees and WFP food aid on the local economies within a 15 km radius of the settlements.

The findings reveal that refugees receiving cash food assistance increase annual real income in the local economy by UGX 3.8 million ($1,106) at Rwamwanja and UGX 3.7 million ($1,072) at Adjumani. The impact is higher for cash aid compared to food aid. Additionally, providing refugees with land significantly increases their impact on local incomes. Refugee households with land generate a higher income spillover compared to those without land. The study also highlights that cash aid has a larger impact on real incomes compared to in-kind food aid. Each dollar of cash aid increases total real income in and around the settlements by $2.47, while the impact of an additional dollar of food aid in kind is slightly smaller.

Overall, the study concludes that refugees and WFP food aid have positive impacts on local incomes in Uganda, with most of the income spillovers benefiting host-country households. Providing land to refugees further enhances their economic impact. These findings emphasize the potential benefits of progressive refugee assistance programs and highlight the importance of considering the form of aid provided.


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