Widening access to tertiary education through affordable finance – The Lending for Education in Africa Partnership 

The lack of access to quality tertiary education is a significant and growing challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa, where enrolment rates for young people are far below those 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 and scholarships are only available for a small group of the highest academic performers. This financing gap offers a compelling opportunity to advance social mobility and economic development by addressing the ‘missing middle’ of tertiary education finance, particularly in light of the strong return on investment delivered by each additional year of higher education for an individual’s earning potential. 

The Lending for Education in Africa Partnership (LEAP) is a first-of-its kind partnership which has established a social lending fund providing affordable student finance to young people from low- and middle-income backgrounds in Kenya who cannot fully cover the cost of their education through conventional loans, bursaries, scholarships or other means. In addition to direct financial support, the initiative delivers services to support students in their transition into the world of work.

The approach

LEAP’s offer to its Fellows consists of:

  • Affordable student loan to cover tuition and living costs 
  • Career readiness support
  • Financial literacy training
  • Collaborative peer-to-peer network and alumni community 

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


  • 913 students in Kenya received an affordable loan from LEAP to start or continue their studies
  • 82% of LEAP Fellows are from the bottom three wealth quintiles in Kenya and 61% are from households where neither parent or guardian is formally employed
  • Almost 50% of LEAP Fellows are the first in their family to progress to tertiary education
  • 93% of surveyed students report that LEAP’s financial literacy training has helped them to manage their finances better 
  • LEAP has secured over £3.5 million of external investment in its social lending fund

The partners

LEAP is managed by a dedicated team at the LEAP Programme (Kenya). The SPHEIR project was led by Volta Capital (UK), which continues to provide impact and performance management support. LEAP works in collaboration with a suite of educational, operational, and strategic partners including 11 universities and TVET institutes in Kenya, the Kenyan fintech Pezesha, the African Management Initiative (AMI), Patascore, and strategic partners the Mandela Institute for Development Studies – MINDS (South Africa), InHive (UK), Equity Group Foundation (Kenya), and Lundin Foundation (Canada).

See also