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LEAP is a non-profit social lending fund that provides student financing to otherwise un(der)funded talented youth across Sub-Saharan Africa. LEAP’s lending is being directed towards youth from low and middle-income backgrounds who cannot access conventional commercial loans, nor benefit from bursaries or scholarships, the “missing middle” of higher education finance. By opening access to higher education and incentivising academic success, the partnership aims to strengthen economic prosperity and create pathways to gainful employment.

The challenge

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, financing issues are a key factor in preventing students from enrolling, completing their studies and choosing courses that enhance employability. The shortage of student financing in Kenya and South Africa alone is estimated to be $1.1 billion. Existing concessionary funding is limited to scholarship and bursaries, predominately oriented towards the top one per cent of performers or the most-needy, while commercial banks target those with collateral or income records. Meanwhile, private financing models are limited to students targeting top international MBA programmes. With 15 per cent annual growth in demand for higher education, the accessibility gap is expected to keep widening.

The solution

LEAP is an equitable and scalable student financing model. It targets the missing middle of higher education finance — young people from low- and middle-income backgrounds who are unable to secure credit from conventional commercial banks and for whom bursaries and scholarships are not yet available. During a four-year pilot phase, LEAP is disbursing higher education loans to students in Kenya and Tanzania, tailored to specific degree programmes from education providers in these two countries. In this way, it promotes access to skills for the Sub-Saharan Africa labour market, while encouraging the growth of relevant higher education programmes. Upon successful completion of the pilot, LEAP will be scaled and replicated across the continent.


  • 168 students in Kenyan universities are receiving financial support via the LEAP partnership. They make up the first cohort of LEAP Fellows.
  • Four Kenyan universities have become LEAP partners. They will support in the promotion of LEAP and the recruitment of new applicants.
  • Initial agreements have been formed with investors to help sustain LEAP’s future.

The partners

The LEAP partnership is led by VOLTA Capital (UK), working with Equity Group Foundation (Kenya), Future First Global (UK), Lundin Foundation (Canada) and Mandela Institute for Development Studies (South Africa).