Dutch consultants to help Kalene Education Fund pursue next growth phase

09 May 2018 Consultancy.africa 5 min. read

Consultants from Dutch consultancy firm 'been management consulting' are touching down in Zambia tomorrow to help the Kalene Education Fund with crafting a plan for the fund's next growth phase. With a plan and the skills to execute in place, the Lusaka-based social impact startup aims at growing its footprint in the education sector and offering a growing number of young, talented Zambians with opportunities for the future.

Zambia, a country with a population of nearly 17 million, faces a high unemployment rate. According to the most recent data from the World Bank, its overall unemployment rate stands at 13%, while among the younger generations the rate is at an alarming 25%. The lack of formal jobs is just half of the problem however – statistics from the government of Zambia show that more than 95% of the working class do informal jobs. Examples include self-sufficient farmers and all sorts of street traders, most of whom have an income below the World Bank’s ‘poverty line’ – a $1 to $2 a day income threshold deemed necessary for survival in the region.

With wages so low, many Zambians are struggling to reach financial stability, and as a result in certain rural areas there are limited opportunities for parents to send their children to secondary schools. It is also a struggle for some Zambians to afford to pay the fees for post-secondary education. Zambia consequently finds itself strapped with a shortage of educated and skilled labour in many key sectors, including engineering, financial services, healthcare, and professional services. Given the country is well-positioned to grow economically in some sectors, the county’s lack of a skilled workforce is holding back development.

Kalene Education Fund helps talented Zambians with funding their education

Following 3.8% growth in 2016, Zambia's economy grew to 3.9% last year, on the back of a bumper crop harvest and a more stable electricity supply to businesses and inhabitants. For 2018 and the medium-term, the World Bank projects the GDP growth rate to accelerate to above 4%. “The clearance of arrears and the pursuit of accommodative monetary conditions should bolster the recovery of the financial sector and unlock consumption and investment lending. High international copper prices and improved domestic production from newer and recently refurbished mines is expected to support exports,” state the World Bank’s economists on the website of the institution.

Bridging the talent gap

Against this backdrop, the Kalene Education Fund (KEF) was founded two and a half years ago in Lusaka, the capital and largest city of Zambia. The foundation is engaged in providing and mediating student loans to students who have largely completed their education but are unable to continue their educational journey due to of a lack of funding. KEF negotiates an agreement on behalf of students with the institution, only after a comprehensive assessment of the parents'/student's ability to pay. The fund then draws up a realistic payment plan with the student over a longer period, typically an affordable monthly payment for three years. 

KEF mainly focuses on students for whom there is a high chance that they will find work post-graduation – think of doctors, accountants, legal professionals or nurses. In addition the fund recently also started a programme in the rural areas in the East of Zambia (to support parents to pay school fees for their children). Parents typically earn around 700 ZMW (approximately $70 per month).

The social impact startup has seen strong growth since inception, allowing for ambitious Zambian students to make the jump to education, while internally, its team has grown to five employees. “There is a great need for more external funding – every $10,000 added in funding for example can support another 1,000 schoolchildren per year. It is our ambition to expand our activities and broaden our funding portfolio to span all levels of education, from primary to postdoctoral,” said Joy Simbabwa, founder of Kalene Education Fund to Consultancy.africa. Further, the organisation is seeing high demand from the market for its services and financial construction, and so the founders also strive to ensure that the internal organisation advances its maturity.

Joy Simbabwa

A Zambian-Dutch collaboration

To support with the translation of the ambition into a concrete roadmap, Kalene Education Fund has called in the support of been management consulting (been mc), a management consulting firm from the Netherlands with around 30 consultants. The firm, which is providing its services to KEF on a pro-bono basis as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts, will provide expertise in strategy, organisation, and growth to help the foundation prepare for the expected growth. Between 10 and 13 May, been mc’s consultants Ralph Lodder and Marieke Siero will lead an organisational assessment in Lusaka. The analysis will examine current processes to find opportunities for improvement and remove (potential) barriers for growth. The consultants will also provide several training sessions on soft skills to ensure that the right capabilities and behaviour for executing the roadmap are well-embedded among team members.

Commenting on the project, Ralph Lodder said, “In Zambia, there is a critical need for organisations such as KEF that offer talented young professionals with the opportunity to follow tertiary education through an affordable construction, such as monthly payments. The foundation is a great example of an organisation that not only helps, but also has large social impact footprint, adding to the economy while reducing talent shortage to sectors such as health, banking and engineering, and society.” 

Zambia’s 7th National Development Plan, 2017–2021 aims to improve five key pillars, including economic diversification and job creation. “We look forward to contributing to the next growth phase of Kalene Education Fund, a fund which aligns closely with one of the country’s most important strategic objectives,” concluded Marieke Siero.