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Press Release

The IKEA Foundation awards €30 million grant to the International Rescue Committee to support livelihoods development for urban refugees in East Africa

  • The Re:Build program will assist 20,000 refugees and other local residents in finding employment opportunities in Nairobi and Kampala
  • Cutting-edge research will demonstrate the effectiveness of service offerings
  • A bold influencing agenda will aim to transform policies, practices, and investments in additional cities in East Africa and beyond

Today, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is announcing a new initiative with the IKEA Foundation in the form of a five-year, €30 million partnership focused on transforming livelihoods opportunities for urban refugees in East Africa. The large-scale initiative, called Refugees in East Africa: Boosting Urban Innovations for Livelihoods Development (Re:Build), will provide employment support to 20,000 refugees and other local community members living in Nairobi, Kenya and Kampala, Uganda.

Working with a diverse group of partners, Re:Build will build upon cutting-edge research to create opportunities for refugees and other local community members to start and grow businesses, find employment, and receive increased access to financial services. To achieve this, Re:Build will offer apprenticeships, business grants, mentorships, skills training and certification, and more. Through this inclusive, community-driven approach, Re:Build aims to serve as a model for future livelihoods efforts throughout East Africa and beyond.

“Re:Build presents a unique opportunity to break the status quo and create locally-driven partnerships focused on continuous learning,” said David Miliband, CEO, International Rescue Committee. “It holds the potential to transform the urban refugee livelihoods sector and deliver systemic change that will provide refugees with the resources and choices they need to regain control of their lives and their futures. With the IKEA Foundation’s investment and the IRC’s expertise in transforming livelihoods, this program is also a solid example of the private sector partnering with the international community to produce innovative solutions to some of the world’s largest problems. We are proud to be working together on this game-changing program.”

This is the second partnership between the IRC and the IKEA Foundation. The first project, called Building Incomes and Leveraging Livelihoods for Youth (BILLY), focused on helping refugees and young Kenyans living in Nairobi increase their incomes through skills training and job support.

“At the IKEA Foundation, we remain committed to helping refugees and local residents secure livelihood opportunities that enable them to earn a decent income, support their families and lead dignified lives,” said Per Heggenes, CEO, IKEA Foundation. “It is critical to include refugees in East Africa in livelihood investments and we are excited to be partnering again with the IRC to fill the research and programming gaps that exist among this growing population.” 

East Africa hosts more than five million refugees from within and outside the region, with many living within rapidly growing cities such as Nairobi and Kampala. High levels of unemployment, lack of documentation and access to financial services, and skills and language gaps restrict livelihoods opportunities for this population, often forcing them to seek informal work and resort to lower wages and unsafe working conditions. With COVID-19 and the effects of climate change, these challenges have only been further compounded.

The IRC will partner with the Center for Global Development for the program’s research and advocacy work as well as to share key learnings. The program will also work closely with local and regional-based private partners, civil society organizations, city authorities, and refugee and community-led organizations to create lasting and meaningful change.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.