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Safaricom, Helb launch smart student loan repayment solution

Safaricom has partnered with the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) to roll out a smart mobile payment solution for students of tertiary institutions to access and utilise their loans and bursaries.

HELB, whose mandate is to source for funds and provide loans, scholarships and bursaries to Kenyans studying in institutions of higher learning, last year invited telcos to bid for the provision of a mobile payments platform.

The agency said the move is aimed at increasing the convenience and efficiency of its services through the automation and digitisation exercise.

In a statement, Safaricom said it will help the agency to promote responsible spending with the funds locked for specific allocations, such as tuition or library fees only accessible to the specific Paybill account of the recipient’s University or TVET institution.

The students’ upkeep allowance can now also be transferred into the student’s M-Pesa wallet for everyday use.

Safaricom Chief Financial Services Officer Sitoyo Lopokoiyit said the technology today is not only revolutionising every aspect of our lives but also creating opportunities to enhance efficiency and accountability.

“We are pleased to support the Higher Education Loans Board to deploy a solution that suits the digital lifestyle of students in tertiary institutions,” said Students can access the system through HELB USSD and the mobile app once completed from where they will view their loan allocations, current balances, statements and make payments,” he said.

Helb disburses over Sh15 billion to over 200,000 beneficiaries annually.

Part of the loan is usually channelled directly to the learning institution to settle part of the tuition and accommodation fees while the rest is sent to the student for upkeep.

The launched solution will create efficiencies for all stakeholders by reducing queues during registration as students can now pay through their mobile phones.

There will be effective management and monitoring of all loans throughout the loan lifecycle, said HELB.

“The rollout of this smart solution marks a major milestone in our digitisation journey. It not only enhances efficiency in our operations but also enables us to step up the experience of beneficiaries, who are digital natives,” said Charles Ringera, HELB Chief Executive Officer.

“The solution will allow the student to access and make transactions within the solution’s ecosystem,” he added.

The platform grants HELB visibility of funds from various sources, which it can aggregate, reconcile real-time and report to its financiers.

Continuing students can receive notifications and utilise a financial planning tool on the portal, while those who have graduated can track their repayments and generate statements.

HELB is supposed to be a revolving fund in which beneficiaries, mostly students from low-income households who have completed their studies, pay back loans to support a fresh group of students.

However, HELB has been marred by loan defaults, with and recently said it was pursuing 78,328 loan defaulters who are holding Sh7.7 billion in student loans as of December 31.

The past beneficiaries have not responded despite frequent threats of prosecution, credit bureau listings and use of specialised debt recovery agents.