8B Education Investments has collaborated with US-based Nelnet bank in a “first-of-its-kind” partnership to get more African students into North American institutions.
Although Sub-Saharan Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70% of people under the age of 30, African students made up approximately 4% of international students in the US in 2021/22.
One of the biggest barriers for Africans wishing to study abroad is funding, according to Lydiah Kemunto Bosire, founder and CEO of 8B Education Investments.
This is a challenge Bosire, who was born in Kenya, experienced first hand. After receiving a scholarship to study at an international school in Wales, she struggled to fund her higher education, but saw students from other countries able to access loans with relative ease. Despite the challenges, Bosire now holds degrees from Cornell University and the University of Oxford.
Students who do secure enough funding to attend university abroad often run into “exchange rate drama” and drop out because “the money isn’t there”, Bosire told The PIE News.
8B Education Investments was launched to address these issues. The organisation raised $3 million in seed funding at the start of this year and plans to open a new funding round at the end of 2023.
Initially, only students taking STEM, accountancy and finance programs in North America will be eligible to apply, but the organisation plans to expand to other countries and subjects in future.
8B Education Investments currently has teams operating in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda, where they are conducting university outreach and student engagement. Finance is available to students from any African country.
Loans are expected to be ready for launch from April 2023 onwards, around the same time as students begin receiving offers for the next academic year.
Students will begin making interest-only repayments on loans while studying, before normal repayments set in six months after graduation and last seven years.
8B Education Investments has also worked with institutions including Minerva and the University of Antigua to create risk reserve programs, whereby the loan is paid directly to the institution, with a share held back in case the student drops out. These initiatives can help universities struggling to recruit African students to get “more through the door”, Bosire said.
“The world is opening up for global talent”
The organisation wants to go beyond funding and become a “curated place” for information on studying abroad and career prospects, aiming to “become a companion for young ambitious, brilliant Africans,” said Bosire.
“The world is opening up for global talent and we want to be there to shepherd African talent through the gates,” Bosire said.