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HELB CEO’s remarks at the signing of the HELB M-PESA Mobile Payment Solution

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HELB CEO’s remarks at the signing of the HELB M-PESA Mobile Payment Solution

2nd March 2021

Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The CEO Safaricom Ltd, CPA Peter Ndegwa, MD Mpesa Ltd and my Chairman at KCA University council – Mr. Sitoyo Lopokoiyit & Senior Management at Safaricom, Senior Leadership team at HELB led by Ag. COO & Head of Legal Bernadette Masinde.

First, my congratulations and appreciation to the team led by Sydney Ashioya from Safaricom and from HELB, Head of Lending Joseph Kingori Ndegwa and Chief Innovation & Technology Officer Josphat Nzuki. I vividly remember the words of one Sitoyo that HELB MOBILE TRANSFER MUST WORK OR WORK! You have achieved it!

I remember my age group, Postbank passport days. This what we want to progress, and by the way, that passport was right for the purpose and time. Then, we felt like we were technologically enabled!

Back to the present, indeed this mobile payment solution will help us achieve the following in student loan disbursements:

  • Timeliness through mobile technology
  • Accuracy on the phone holder
  • Evidence based date in regard to where and to who the money was disbursed
  • Cost minimization on disbursement both to the students and HELB
  • Versatility in what the owner of the money can use in utilizing the funds through disbursements – tap and go for the students through NFC technology that we understand Safaricom is about to rollout
  • HELB needs to understand its customers the student much better through analytics, this will be possible through Mobile money disbursements
  • Efficiency is a hallmark for HELB, students should not think about their loan but about their studies, this gives the peace of mind to execute that efficiently
  • We want other funders – Corporates like Safaricom, Counties, Constituencies, development partners, parents to utilize the mechanism more efficiently and optimally in decision making of who to fund – case for professional fundraisers…this will improve sustainable financing of students in HLIs

The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) was established by an Act of Parliament – CAP 213A in 1995 with the mandate to provide loans, bursaries and scholarships to Kenyans pursuing higher education in recognized Kenyan universities and colleges and to recover the same after completion of studies to facilitate establishment of a revolving fund.

Over the last couple of years, HELB has recorded tremendous growth in terms of the number of students who benefit from the loans covering various programmes in Public Universities (38), Private Chartered Universities (38), 168 Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) institutions and over 85 MTCs whose graduates are now at the forefront of fighting COVID-19. This has played a major role in youth empowerment and skills acquisition. Our financing, caters for tuition and upkeep, focusing mainly on the fragile, vulnerable and marginalized students. For the last 25 years, HELB has empowered the dreams of more than 1,065,191 students and disbursed over Kshs. 115.7B.  As of 31st December 2020, there were 563,284 mature loan accounts worth Kshs. 69.26B while 501,907 loanees holding Kshs.46.46B had not matured for repayment. The number continues to grow annually, especially with the reforms at Primary and Secondary levels.

It is projected that, the amount of funds required by HELB to cater for this social mandate, of providing student’s financing, will grow exponentially to over Kshs.40B per annum by the year 2030, from the current annual budget provision of Kshs.16.86B for year 2020/21.

BALANCE SHEET GROWTH

Between 2013 and 2021 the Balance Sheet has tripled from Kshs. 31B to current standing at March 2021 to Kshs. 95B.

REACHING OUT TO MASHINANI

We have spread out in the country from one head office branch in 2013 to presence in 28 Huduma Centres countrywide as follows:

This has enabled us to serve our customers better and more responsively, in more than one way we aligned with Safaricom Strategy of reaching out to the lowest level of our customer. For example in some Counties we want to invest on Robotics like AI to serve our customer similar to Zuri from Safaricom. This would enable us reach customers in Pemba and Manda island, same with Moyale, Erwak, Sabaret, Sololo, Marsabit, Laisamis, Maikoma, Kargi, North Horr, Kakuma, Lokichogio, Mandera, Wajir etc. Because they are all Kenyans and deserve best of service particularly education to transform their lives and livelihoods. I implore upon our partners Safaricom to join us in our communities’ transformative agenda based on the 17th SDG goals for our people and THE AFRICA WE WANT 2063.

REVOLVING THE FUND

HELB has instituted innovative strategies to recover loans from past beneficiaries which has resulted to an increase in recoveries by over 300% in the last 5 years. Last year, 2019/2020, HELB recovered over Kshs.4.4B from past beneficiaries and this year we are on course to recover Kshs. 5B amidst COVID-19 impact on our loanees. We continue to discuss with our customers on Debt restructuring mechanism such as paying off using other financiers through our dedicated Debt Management team and a 30-seater Contact Centre. The loan book performance has however been greatly affected by COVID-19, which has led to more pressure on our capacity to fund more students.

HELB FUNDING GAP

Traditionally, HELB has depended on government capitation for funding. Lately, however, there has been pressure to shift dependence from government capitation to recoveries and mobilization of external resources. During the financial year 2020/2021 the Gross HELB budget estimate is Kshs.16.86B made up of Kshs.11.3B Government Capitation and Kshs.5.5B Appropriation in Aid (A-I-A). This is against the backdrop of the social-economic challenges currently facing the Country, especially the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, there is evidence of job losses and suppressed business activities, which has had negative impact on HELB collections and external resource mobilization activities. Over the last 5 years, HELB has entered into over 32 partnerships, that have led to mobilization of over Kshs.1.4B outside Ministry of Education budgetary allocation.

With the projected increase in demand for HELB products and subdued sources of funding, it is envisaged that the funding gap will grow exponentially.

We encourage Corporates like Safaricom to join our agenda of centralized distribution of higher education financing through HELB. That way we will be able to distribute funds efficiently, factually and in a manner not to duplicate therefore improving Equity, Fairness and non-duplication of funding. I remain optimistic that the discussions started with Steve Chege and Eunice Wambui Kibathi will indeed bear fruits on this end.

EMERGING ISSUES

One of the key priorities for HELB is to ensure that there is 100% transition for HELB beneficiaries to create sustainability of the envisaged revolving fund. In this regard, HELB purposes to continue supporting the fragile, vulnerable, and marginalized students with tuition and upkeep funds, however with the new demand for e-learning, tuition and upkeep support is not enough. There is need for facilitation of e-learning enablers such as Laptops. The Laptop support project is particularly critical given the new norm of COVID-19. Laptops have become a mandatory learning equipment for all students regardless of the areas of speciality. Higher learning institutions have embraced blended learning with minimal physical interactions and extended online learning.

Some of the benefits that will accrue from the students accessing e-learning gadgets include:

  1. Enhancing completion rate. Currently majority of the learners are fragile and vulnerable. With the new demand for e-learning gadgets, most of them will be forced to drop out or defer their studies.
  2. Grooming the students for the job market. The target beneficiaries will gather experience in operating such gadgets which have become a learning requirement and hence transition seamlessly into the job market.
  3. Students may engage in online income generating activities while still in the universities especially with support from Ajira Digital program.
  4. Students will be facilitated to engage in digital innovations which have become the main economic driver in many countries. Kenyans are very innovative and competitive.
  5. There are numerous system support and capacity building digital learning programmes in various universities and colleges across the Country, however, there is need to facilitate students with digital gadgets to complete the cycle, otherwise there will be systems but no users.

It is therefore in the best interest of Corporates like Safaricom to ensure that beneficiaries of tuition and upkeep funds, also get facilitated to get e-learning enablers such as Laptops. This is especially more critical to the vulnerable and fragile students.

THE CURRENT HELB PRODUCTS

  1. Focus is on the fragile, vulnerable, marginalise and needy students. The credit score is based on a students’ inability to raise funds or how vulnerable they are.
  2. The interest charged is 4% per annum on reducing balance for direct entry student loans, which is way below average cost of capital in Kenya.
  3. The loans mature one year after graduation or earlier depending on the beneficiary’s ability to repay.

For more information on various HELB products, please visit: https://www.helb.co.ke/helb-products/

I therefore call upon Safaricom to join us in this critical mass development agenda of post COVID19 Learning, together we will succeed, singularly we can only do so much.

On behalf of the HELB Board of Directors led by Chairman Hon. Ekwee Ethuro, Management and Staff, asanteni sana.

God Bless you.

CPA Charles Ringera

CEO, Higher Education Loans Board.

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