Amidst Kiva’s Investments Week, we had the opportunity to chat with Rachel Lewis, a Senior Investment Manager for Kiva. Lewis has been with Kiva for the past 5 years, in a variety of positions. Originally, Lewis started out at Kiva as a Fellow in Albania and Kosovo! And she’s come far. In her current role as a Senior Investment Manager, Lewis manages and oversees a portfolio of Kiva partners across sub-Saharan Africa.
“During my time, I've been lucky enough to get to work with many of Kiva’s diverse types of partners, everything from our social enterprise partnerships to our traditional microfinance partners from west to east Africa,” Lewis explained. “I've gotten exposure to a lot of different types of partners that we work with.”
Lewis, through her own personal usage of Kiva and professional career, is constantly advocating and empowering female borrowers. She understands and sees firsthand the impact that loans can make in peoples’ lives.
“For me, it's always really personal because I've gotten to meet a lot of the partners. I'm excited about what those loans do and the impact that they have on the ground in borrowers’ lives,” Lewis said.
Currently, Lewis is working on a partnership with Kepler, an education-based field partner in Rwanda that provides students with a high-quality education at a small fraction of the price. Since 2004, Kepler has worked with vulnerable populations that often lack financial access to higher education, even providing a support network for students with post-grad job opportunities. Individuals in their program are given the tools to succeed and the key to open doors to a brighter future, as Kepler has a 90% career-level profession placement rate within six months of graduation.
“We care a lot about the job placement piece as it means students will be able to obtain higher levels of financial security when they graduate,” Lewis said, regarding the partnership. “Kepler's been a great partner for us and [we] have a lot of confidence in their ability to execute and provide value for their students.”
There’s a large and growing need for education all around the globe, but a disparity between those who are willing or able to fund such a cause. Student loans are often seen as a riskier proposition since it’s a longer-term loan. They’re often less favorable because the longer the pay-back period is, the lower the chances are of a full pay-back.
“With a typical fixed repayment loan that doesn’t consider whether a student finds a job after graduation or what their income will be it’s really hard for students to feel comfortable taking the loan. If they do end up taking a fixed repayment loan, then it often becomes difficult for them to meet the loan repayment obligation," stated Lewis.
In general, students aren’t particularly considered the most loan-worthy population. Because of this underserved and vast demographic, Kepler has an amplified impact due to its partnership with CHANCEN International. Kepler, in partnership with CHANCEN International, is offering their students higher education tuition loans. But rather than a fixed repayment, the repayment is based on the individual student's income with an Income Share Agreement -- which means that we can make sure students don’t have fixed-term payments on their loans.
Instead, they will be able to pay a portion of their income towards their loan once they secure a job. This gives students the time and space to find gainful employment in line with their goals and dreams.
When they begin to earn enough to take care of their needs, repayments kick in and CHANCEN’s unique algorithm ensures that they pay a percentage of their earnings that does not encroach on basic needs. CHANCEN functions as the loan administrator by coordinating loan paperwork and repayment management, allowing Kepler to focus on education and setting students up for success after graduation
“There's a lot of fear in working with a financial institution. We're able to create a partnership that works for students,” Lewis said, as it’s not very often we see institutions or organizations that provide opportunities with the use of flexible capital for students. Flexible capital allows populations to easily access education, leading to a more stable income and does not jeopardize their future with near-impossible loan terms.
“When you talk about the power of education to unlock a society, we're opening them up to $5,000, which isn't that much money to talk about the difference in someone's life," Lewis added.
At the core of all of this, we see the power that education holds for many and the means to which potential can be unlocked once freed of financial constraints.
“I think what Kiva lenders share is a core of compassion. They care about the world,” Lewis said. “They care about having an impact and want to connect with someone that they wouldn't be able to otherwise and help that person.”