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Topic: 25 Million Sparks: The Untold Story of Refugee Entrepreneurs (Cambridge University Press, May 26, 2022)

In collaboration with Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), GATE co-hosted a thought-provoking conversation on refugee entrepreneurship with the author of 25 Million Sparks: The Untold Story of Refugee Entrepreneurs, Andrew Leon Hanna, an award-winning Egyptian American lawyer and entrepreneur, and Rachel Pulfer, Executive Director of Journalists for Human Rights.

25 Million Sparks explores the phenomenon of refugee entrepreneurship in refugee camps and cities across the globe. What emerges is a tale of power, determination, and dignity – of igniting the brightest sparks of joy, even in places where the rest of the world sees only the darkness.

The conversation focused on refugee entrepreneurs’ strengths and resilience that enables them to do a lot more with a lot less. Compared to other entrepreneurs, refugees can face much higher obstacles when starting businesses such as poor access to capital, lack of networks, and language barriers, in addition to traumas they have experienced in life. Despite these challenges, Andrew showed that refugee entrepreneurs have a strong commitment to success. Refugees also have a cross cultural advantage that gives them unique insights: because of their lived experiences, they have a better understanding of different cultures, products and markets that traditional entrepreneurs may not.  Andrew also observed that refugees are often very desirous of creating a community and have a high level of empathy for their customers, which is helpful for business.

“Immigrants and refugees are portrayed as either victims or villains […]  I know that’s not the reality, So how do we tell a story  that paints the beauty, power, dignity and innovation of refugees, and tells a story that’s accurate, not what’s all over the news.” – Andrew Leon Hanna

Watch Andrew Leon Hanna discuss the strengths of refugee entrepreneurs