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Opportunity EduFinance
1 Fore St., London EC2Y 5EJ

Telephone: +44 (0) 7768599834

© 2019 Opportunity International Education Finance functions under its US and UK affiliates. Opportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692). Opportunity International United Statesis a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

A combined and collective effort is the way forward in serving the communities around the world

By Martins Strals, Marketing and Communications Associate

The 2019 Global Education Finance Conference, held in June 2019, was a long time in the making, but well worth the wait. We felt it was important to create a space to share the collective knowledge and experiences in education lending of both our EduFinance team and our growing number of financial institution partners. Hearing directly from our partners and having insightful discussions based on their experiences also provided critical insight to guide our EduFinance program strategy to increasingly meet the demands of markets across the globe.

Martins on a visit to a primary school in Kampala, Uganda

We hosted the conference at the Speke Resort Hotel and Conference centre in Kampala, Uganda. Being there in the space on the first day was electrifying, as spirits were high and the enthusiasm on learning about what we all have to share was encouraging. Over 30 financial institution partners were present from across Africa, South America, and Asia. While many financial institutions had stories of challenges in their early days of EduFinance lending or related to unforeseen economic factors, many more had their own success stories and further ambitions for expanding education lending going forward. Both the challenges and the successes all contributed to a room filled with vibrant discussion, debate and shared experiences, as the conference structure emphasized interactive small working groups to increase sharing.  

The estimated 3.6 million children that have collectively benefitted from education financing by our partners globally is both staggering and impressive, but overall it's clearly dwarfed by the much larger global demand. According to a UNESCO report released in 2017, there are currently 617 million children globally who will not reach proficiency levels in literacy and maths. To put that into perspective, that equates to 6 out of every 10 children and young adults who will not have a quality education by the time they reach adulthood.

As staggering as the scale of the global education crisis presents, much more can be done. For me, this was highlighted as I stood in that conference room with 85 people in Kampala, all of whom were using the power of their financial institutions to further increase their lending to affordable, local schools and parents. Our current partner financial institutions have reported more than US$200 million in education loans disbursed cumulatively, with active outstanding loans to over 6,600 schools and 58,000 parents. The current trend suggests that our partners lending in the education space will only continue to grow. This was further reinforced by the active involvement and engagement of our conference attendees, expressing their commitment to increasing their portfolio allocation for education finance.

Andrew McCusker, George Piwang, Martins Strals

The conference began with an introduction and overview by the Head of EduFinance, Andrew McCusker. After quizzing the attendees on their collective knowledge in global education stats, he encouraged attendees to take advantage of each others’ experiences and learnings over the next three days and be willing to share the difficulties and issues that each face within the education finance sector so we could proactively discuss how to best create solutions. He also encouraged attendees to consider setting larger ambitions based on their takeaways from the conference and take advantage of trends within the affordable private school sector.

Attendees gave feedback on a wide range of conference learnings they were taking back to their financial institution, from new ideas on product term solutions to improved relational engagement with school proprietors to consideration of credit algorithm tools and new opportunities to access debt financing. For me, the biggest takeaway from the conference – and many that I spoke with - was that although we can all feel insignificant and ineffective in solving the global education crisis, a combined and collective effort that leverages our experiences is the best way forward to ultimately ensuring children have real access to quality education.

Setting up for the first day of the conference

If you would like more information on the conference, we produced a full Conference Report that highlights session topics and information we collected from participants, which can be read here

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Martins Strals has worked as a Marketing and Communications Associate at Opportunity International EduFinance since March 2019. Since joining he has been working in raising the profile of the organisation as well as highlighting the important work that is being undertaken by EduFinance. Martins comes from a marketing background with extensive experience in the film industry, as well as working for other NGO's in other fields. He can be reached at mstrals@opportunity.org

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