July 11, 2020

From refugees to entrepreneurs, only with a change of perspective

If the term "refugee" has negative connotations, that of entrepreneurship at all, but being both is possible thanks to a change of perspective promoted by Startups Without Borders, an initiative for migrants to create their own business, inspire others and contribute their sand granite

The founder of the project, Argentina's Valentina Primo, explains to Efe that the objective is to change the discourse surrounding immigration and the situation of refugees, which "is always portrayed as a crisis and never as a business opportunity."

To this end, this Friday and Saturday is the first meeting of Startups Without Borders in Cairo, involving investors, entrepreneurs and activists, some of whom are refugees from various countries, especially in the Middle East, who share their experiences, and his stories of struggle and success.

"There is great ignorance of the term‘ refugee ’because it is very political and has very negative connotations," says United Nations activist and consultant Hazami Barmada, who founded in 2017 Humanity Lab, a program that seeks to empower people through technology and education.

The also founder of Global People's Summit He stressed that many times refugees think they are "a burden on the community", but in reality "they are talented people with many capacities that can contribute to improving society."

An example of this is Saddam Sayyaleh, who grew up in a refugee camp in Jerash, Jordan, home to about 20,000 Palestinians.

With the little money he could save working as a waiter, Saddam volunteered for a campaign against child poverty in India and later, when he returned to Jordan, he founded I Learn, an initiative that seeks to develop inclusive ecosystems for children and youth in situations of extreme need.

However, creating a startup without resources is not easy for refugees, who face more obstacles than other entrepreneurs when it comes to obtaining capital, accessing credit, having their own bank account or traveling freely.

The co-founder of the Investment Network for Refugees (RIN), Tim Dockings, points out at one of the conferences this weekend in Cairo that "investors have to understand the situation in which refugees find themselves", which They have the same opportunities or the same capacity as other entrepreneurs to realize and launch their projects.

Dockings explains that an investment is considered “refugee” when at least 51% of the company belongs to refugees or when they have 33% representation in senior positions, or if the project has a social impact on these people, and in these cases is where RIN comes into action.

Another of the speakers, the Jordanian Nisreem Hadad, considers that one of the ways to promote the employment of this group is to implement "fair policies so that there is at least a 50% quota of refugees" in the jobs, as It has been done with women.

But especially in cases where they lack documentation, they face legal problems, in addition to discrimination based on the stigma of being foreigners and coming from countries sometimes considered dangerous, such as Syria or Afghanistan.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recalls in the Global Appeal 2018-2019 report that there are 67.7 million people at risk in the world, including stateless persons, refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees, 27.8% of which are concentrated in the area of ​​North Africa and the Middle East, where the idea of ​​Startups Without Borders was born.

The war in Syria since 2011 and the successive waves of refugees from this country on several routes, as well as from Africa from the Mediterranean coast, raises many questions, including that these people undertake and develop their human potential in the host countries, to also help improve the image and society of their places of origin.

Raquel Coto

(tagsToTranslate) refugees (t) entrepreneurs (t) alone (t) change (t) perspective

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