Square, the payments company headed up by Jack Dorsey, has partnered with entrepreneurial refugees from TERN (the Entrepreneurial Refugee Network) to supply payment technology for small-scale businesses.
Speaking at London Tech Week, Dorsey sat on a panel with three such entrepreneurs who had leveraged the small terminal devices.
The entrepreneurs speaking at the event included Naglaa Sadikm, from Somalia, who runs translation and interpreter services Naglaa's World; Muzaffar Sadykov, from Uzbekistan, who runs an Uzbek food stall, Oshpaz; and Usman Khalid, from Pakistan, who runs a social enterprise cum coffee shop, Haven Coffee. All talked about the initial difficulties setting up new lives in the UK, which is part of what motivated Naglaa to set up her business.
At the end of 2017, there were 121,837 refugees, 40,365 pending asylum cases and 97 stateless persons in the UK according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Recent reports have highlighted that refugees are underrepresented in the UK workforce, with the unemployment rate three times higher than in the general population, at 18 percent.
"There is huge capacity for refugees to contribute to the UK economy, either by better leveraging the skills they already have or helping them add new skills," Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR's UK representative told the Guardian. "There really is untapped potential here that could be a boon for the local economy, and at the same time a powerful vehicle for better integration."
Looking to help tap this potential is TERN, a social enterprise founded in 2016 that supports refugees in the UK setting up their own businesses. The three entrepreneurs speaking at the event are success stories from the enterprise's efforts. Sadykov cited his highlight in the experience so far as receiving a complaint from the venue his stall was in - that the line was so long it was obstructing other stalls.
All said that the ability to accept contactless payments helped them to be competitive and grow their businesses. Naglaa in particular said that the ability put her on a par with much larger translation services.