Kenyan slum schools chain gets Sh1.4bn cash injection

Bridge International Academies, a group of low-cost elementary schools founded in Kenya that charges Sh500 fees per month, has signed a Sh1.4 billion cash injection to finance expansion plans in Uganda, Nigeria and India.

International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private investment arm, Tuesday signed a $10 million (Sh860 million) preferred equity investment with Bridge International while CDC, the UK’s development finance institution, is making a $6 million (Sh510 million) equity investment.

Bridge Academies located in slums and rural areas charge minimal school fees to poor students. It was started in Kenya in 2009 by Jay Kimmelman and Shannon May.

“We have additional funding from the US Venture Capital firm New Enterprise Associates and Bill Gates who is interested in what we do in technology innovation,” said Ms May yesterday during the signing ceremony for the new funding.

According to disclosures made by IFC, Bridge International has an expansion plan that is set to cost an estimated $60 million (Sh5.1 billion).

It has plans to open new schools in Uganda and Nigeria by the end of this year, and in India by end of 2015.

It is also working with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to fund new schools in Nigeria.

IFC vice president for sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Jean Philippe Prosper, said that the expansion plans by Bridge International in Africa and Asia will also create much sought-after teaching jobs.

“This is a long term equity investment. Bridge International’s investment plan is expected to create at least 33,000 teaching jobs by the year 2020,” said Mr Prosper.

At the end of June 2013, IFC’s active portfolio of projects in the education sector was $650 million in 24 countries.

The lender in January last year gave a $7 million (Sh612 million) loan to Brookhouse International School to finance the construction of a new campus expected to double the institution’s student capacity.

Mr Prosper said IFC will be looking to invest in the areas of education, infrastructure, renewable power and agribusiness this year, with an outlay of over $500 million (Sh44 billion).

Bridge International established its first school at Mukuru slums in Nairobi in January 2009, and by the end of that year it had enrolled 299 pupils of up to class three. According to Mr Kimmelman, the number of Bridge schools currently stands at 259, serving 80,000 pupils.