By Emma Rucker
In a world where access to quality education remains a key driver of societal progress, public schooling is often not adequate or accessible to serve the growing needs of our younger generations. In this case, private schools can close this gap by providing quality, affordable education. One key organization serving this impactful market in Kenya is Ed Partners Africa, a financial service provider offering financing to affordable private schools in the country with annual school fees below USD$300.
The landscape of education in Kenya
Rapid urbanization and rising income levels in Kenya have increased the demand for education in many regions while the funding and capacity of public school systems have remained stagnant. Affordable private schools have begun to bridge this gap, their numbers rising from 7,742 in 2014 to 16,594 in 2020, offering an alternative to overcrowded public schools and subpar facilities. These institutions often provide smaller class sizes, better infrastructure, and more personalized attention, all of which contribute to improved learning outcomes. However, the financing needs of these schools are unique. Their target loan sizes are larger than most microfinance institutions cater to, while annual income schedules and collateral needs make them incompatible with typical banking practices. With this expanding education sector, a new financing entity was needed to support sustained growth and impact.
The Genesis: A vision for accessible, quality schooling
In 2018, David FitzHerbert and Lydia Koros co-founded Ed Partners Africa to provide a non-banking financing option for these schools. Based on the belief that education has the power to uplift communities and break the cycle of poverty, Ed Partners targets affordable private schools in underserved regions of Kenya. Modeled off a successful microfinance company in India, the portfolio consists of both affordable and middle-income schools, affordable schools being those with annual school fees below USD$300. To best serve their clients, Ed Partners provides customizable products catered towards the special needs of these schools. This includes loan terms with 8-month repayment periods to allow for the schools’ lack of income during summer months.
Leadership with a purpose
At the helm of Ed Partners Africa for six years was former CEO Amos Mwangi, who has 17 years of experience in business development, credit management and microfinance. He masterfully guided Ed Partners through the Covid-19 pandemic, keeping impact at the forefront by pausing loan collections as schools closed down. His vision led Ed Partners towards an ambitious plan for the future, dreaming of expanding their operations and reaching schools across East Africa. Watch the interview below to hear this vision from Amos and CFO Janet Waweru in their own words.
Forging a groundbreaking partnership
MCE was introduced to Ed Partners in 2019, and was drawn to their unique model and incredible impact. This was a first for MCE, investing in a distinct financing model specifically for one type of client — private schools. But Ed Partners’ leadership, performance, and promising market growth, paired with clear mission alignment with MCE, made it a perfect match for our portfolio. In 2021, MCE disbursed USD$500K to Ed Partners, becoming their first international lender. Since then, several more international lenders have followed MCE’s lead and gotten involved, including a recent partnership with DFC.
“Ed Partners has one of the greatest ratios of end-beneficiaries to loan book size in our portfolio. With around 250 loans amounting to USD$4M outstanding, they are reaching an impressive tens of thousands of students and teachers, showcasing a strong multiplier effect.”
— Laura Lueken, Senior Investment Analyst
Since joining MCE’s FSP Portfolio, Ed Partners has continued to prove their commitment to impact in supporting schools serving rural, underserved areas, as well as uplifting female students, educators and employees. In fact, 60% of schools served by Ed Partners are led by women, and primarily serve young students in non-formal settlement areas of Nairobi and Nakuru that are inadequately reached by the public education system. Recent reports indicate 100,000 students and 4,500 teachers have been impacted through Ed Partners’ portfolio of 350 schools throughout the region.
Joining Hands for a Better Tomorrow
By putting the needs of schools first, laying the foundation for long-term sustainability, and growing their reach to underserved areas, Ed Partners continues to pave the way for a brighter future. MCE is proud to be a partner in supporting this unique education sector with magnifying impact for generations to come.