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Story in Brief

Most people imagine refugee camps to be places devoid of economic activity, where passive migrants rely exclusively on aid. University of Georgia researchers in agricultural and applied economics contributed to growing literature that puts this notion to the test. Partnering with the UGA International Food Policy Research Institute, they identified a vast array of small businesses operating inside and around the camp: grocers, tailors, barbers, taxis, phone-repair shops and more. They collected and analyzed detailed data from the owners and operators of those businesses. They found that both refugees and locals participate in this economy, and interact with one-another extensively as consumers, suppliers, workers or creditors. Only a fraction of all refugees have the resources to start a business, and those who do face challenges greater than their local counterparts. Nevertheless, the existence of this thriving economy in the camp confirms the refugees' entrepreneurial drive and belies common preconceptions.