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Economy

Helb hires agents to track defaulters in Britain, US

University loan applicants being served at the Helb offices in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE
University loan applicants being served at the Helb offices in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE 

The Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) is set to hire representatives to track down loan defaulters abroad in its latest bid to boost collections from past graduates.

The team – HELB Brand Ambassadors – to be recruited on part time contracts and paid on commission basis, will be stationed only in countries that generate the bulk of Kenya’s diaspora remittances such as the US and Britain.

“The ambassadors will be responsible for driving brand awareness, recovery and advocacy,” Helb says in the job adverts already posted on the websites of Kenya’s key embassies abroad.

“They (brand ambassadors) will implement loan repayment and recovery campaigns and provide feedback on opportunities in the Diaspora,” adds the notice.

This is the first time that Helb plans to extend its loan recovery efforts to foreign countries.

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It has previously concentrated on local defaulters, imposing heavy penalties on them alongside signing pacts with the taxman, employers and Director of Public Prosecution to ensure compliance.

But a rising number of former graduates have migrated to Western countries in search of employment given the biting job crisis in Kenya.

The move comes just one month after Helb announced that the Sh7.5 billion that the Treasury allocated for its operations in 2015/16 has left it with a Sh2 billion financing gap.

More than 67,000 new students – the first recipients of the free basic schooling – are set to join university this year, compared to about 57,000 last year.

The agency currently supports 135,000 continuing students admitted to universities in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

At the various foreign capitals, Helb hopes to use the networks of its representatives – who it says must all be past loanees – to rally citizens to finance higher learning back home.

“The ambassadors will build strong professional relationships at Diaspora events, conferences, conventions and trade shows,” the advert reads in part.

The close to three million Kenyans living abroad sent home a total of $1.472 billion (Sh147.2 billion) in the 12 months ending May, up 9.8 per cent from $1.341 billion (Sh134 billion) in the same period last year.

Data prepared by the Central Bank of Kenya shows that North America accounted for 44.4 per cent of total inflows with the balance coming from Europe (30.8 per cent) and the rest of the world (24.8 per cent).

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