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The Lending for Education in Africa Partnership (LEAP) is a first-of-its kind partnership dedicated to solving the systemic education-to-employment challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Through a social lending fund model, LEAP offers affordable student financing, training and career support services to otherwise underfunded youth in SSA.

The challenge

The lack of access to quality tertiary education is a significant and growing challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, only 9% of youth between 18 and 23 years are enrolled in tertiary education (compared with 70% in developed economies). This critical challenge is exacerbated by an acute student financing gap whereby commercial loans are out of reach for most low-and middle-income students, while scholarships are only available to the top 1% of performers.

On the other hand, this financing gap offers a compelling opportunity to advance social mobility and local economic development. For example, the average return on investment from each additional year of higher education is 22% – meaning those with a university degree nearly double their earning potential. 

The solution

LEAP introduces a local solution designed at addressing the missing middle of student financing in order to advance social mobility and local economic development. 

Through a highly collaborative approach with local partners, LEAP deploys customized loans, applies innovative risk-management tools, and provides holistic student support services. In addition to its tailor-made loans, LEAP also offers its LEAP Fellows career readiness and financial literacy training, and forges partnerships to create pathways to gainful employment for its supported students. Together, these features allow LEAP to offer affordable financing –with built-in academic success incentives – and create direct pathways to gain ful employment for students from low and middle-income backgrounds.

Central to LEAP’s business model is the revolving nature of its social lending fund, whereby loan repayments from Fellows are re-deployed for future cohorts of Fellows over time. At the same time, the LEAP fund leverages concessionary funding by raising additional private sector impact funding as it proves its business model. 


LEAP has been active since 2018.

  • Over 830 Fellows enrolled in its programme across 5 Kenyan universities and 2 TVET institutions. LEAP is looking to expand its offering to over 1,500 Fellows by the end of 2021, with expansion across the higher education and vocational training sectors in Kenya.
  • 84% of LEAP Fellows come from the bottom 3 wealth quintiles in Kenya. As comparison, across Kenyan post-secondary institutions, only 27% of Kenyan post-secondary students are from the bottom three wealth quintiles.  
  • Nearly half of all LEAP Fellows are the first in their family to attend higher education.

The partners

LEAP is managed by a dedicated team at VOLTA (UK and Kenya), in partnership with the Mandela Institute for Development Studies - MINDS (South Africa), InHive (UK), Equity Group Foundation (Kenya), and Lundin Foundation (Canada).

See also