Migrant returnees in Sudan have to navigate a tough business environment characterized by high inflation which in turn leads to high rentals, rising prices and fuel shortages.

However, this has not blunted the entrepreneurial spirit or the resolve of many to succeed. Amani and Huda, who both returned from Egypt early this year, attended 'Start and Improve Your Business' (SIYB) training which supported them to diversify and expand their businesses.

Amani runs a hair and beauty products business that she describes as very viable. It helps that she works from home to cut down on rentals. She has since added hand-made jewellery to her online sales.

Huda operates a hair salon which she also runs from home although she often visits clients.

The two women have become good friends and promote each other’s businesses. Both attended the SIYB training with 60 others in April 2021.

“After completing SIYB training, we created a WhatsApp group with our classmates to share ideas and promote one another’s businesses via Facebook,” said Huda, speaking at a focus group discussion held in early October. Six women returnees – all of whom are entrepreneurs - attended the discussion.

The SIYB training was arranged by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa ("the EU-IOM Joint Initiative").

The training is part of reintegration support that the programme provides to returnees following a vulnerability and needs assessment. It complements other reintegration options which include support with vocational training or the offer of a grant to establish a micro-business. 

Suad who arrived from Libya in 2020 said she turned down the offer to attend SIYB training but in hindsight believes it would have equipped her to do well. “My catering business is struggling; I think I could have managed it better if I had attended SIYB training,” she said.

Another returnee, Fatima, also shared her experience since returning from Egypt in February, 2021.

The EU-IOM Joint Initiative supported her to set up a business selling kitchen utensils. But because not many customers were able to pay the full price, Fatima arranged for installment sales. However, many still defaulted.

Fatima subsequently revised her business strategy. She began selling sandwiches and snacks to people visiting a nearby health facility. Demand increased, prompting her to include lunch to this offering.

“Adding food to my existing kitchen utensils business was just the right boost that I needed so I recommend that one should always have a Plan B as a second option in case the first one is not working well,” she said.

According to Linda Onias, the M&E officer for the EU-IOM Joint Initiative in Sudan, the roundtable discussion offered  valuable lessons for the programme. Among them is that some returnees have very high expectations of what IOM should provide and are disappointed when they realise that they must contribute towards their own successful reintegration.

However, the SIYB training also helps manage returnees’ expectations and enables them to come up with more realistic plans to run their businesses. In addition, it fosters the creation of business networks among like-minded returnees.

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative 

Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

For more information please contact: Wilson Johwa, email: wjohwa@iom.int or Linda Onias, emaillonias@iom.int