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This Research in Brief summarises the findings of Betts, A., Chaara, I., Omata, N., and Sterck, O. (2019) Refugee Economies in Uganda: What Difference Does the Self-Reliance Model Make?. Oxford: RSC.

Uganda gives refugees the right to work and freedom of movement through its self-reliance model. The model has been widely praised as one of the most progressive refugee policies in the world. The research we present in this report explores what difference the self-reliance model makes in practice. Which aspects work, under what conditions, and for whom? In order to answer these questions, we compare outcomes for refugees and host community members in Uganda and Kenya, neighbouring countries with contrasting refugee policy frameworks.

We identify four major advantages to Uganda’s regulatory framework: greater mobility, lower transaction costs for economic activity, higher incomes, and more sustainable sources of employment. Nevertheless, there are some limitations to Uganda’s assistance model, notably in relation to the viability of its land allocation model in rural settlements, the inadequacy of access to education in the settlements, and the ineffectiveness of urban assistance.

Overall, the research offers a strong endorsement of the value of allowing refugees the right to work and freedom of movement, but calls for a more nuanced view of the strengths and weaknesses of refugee assistance in Uganda.