Olivia Rooyen

Kuyasa Fund
Year founded: 
South Africa

The Kuyasa Fund is a non-profit social development organization that provides microfinance as a tool to improve the housing conditions of South Africa’s poorer communities.

Focus: Homelessness, Housing, Microcredit and Microfinance
Geographic Area of Impact: South Africa
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 3,732 (2009)
Annual Budget: US$ 2,944,750
Percentage Earned Revenue: 62% (2010)
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, South Africa, 2010

Addressing the inequalities of housing ownership, as well as the growth of cities and population in South Africa, remains a key focus of government initiatives. In South Africa the demand for housing far outweighs supply, especially in urban areas where there is an ongoing increase in population due to economic migration. With millions of people needing housing, the government faces a huge backlog in meeting housing needs. Though the government has provided 2.4 million housing units for the poor through its housing subsidy system, only 100,000 are linked to credit in the formal financial sector. Although the South African banking system is advanced in its products and delivery, it has not extended its ability to cater to members of society who fall below a certain income threshold, and no assistance exists for members of society who work in the informal sector. These are the people for whom the housing subsidy was created, yet they are unable to access the subsidy and the opportunities it brings because they are unable to access adequate sources of funding.

Innovation and Activities
According to Kuyasa’s research, 68% of South Africa’s people fall into the low-income portion of the population that remains unbanked and therefore unable to access credit. The Kuyasa Fund has been able to bridge this gap, providing demand-led, short-term loans to finance incremental building, and supplying a suitable mechanism that allows the poor to build financial and social capital through investment in housing.

Kuyasa’s clients receive 3,500 rand (US$ 500) per household each month, mostly through informal employment or welfare; 76% of its clients are women. These clients are eligible for up to 10,000 rand (US$ 1,500) in loans for home improvement, and in many cases this enables them to add rooms or complete buildings that expand their state-delivered housing, thereby increasing its underlying asset value and adding capital wealth to its owners in the long term. A government subsidy home with no improvements is valued at 50,000 rand (US$ 7,000); after two or three loans the home of a Kuyasa client, which combines savings and about 20,000 rand (US$ 2,800) in loans, is valued at between 150,000 rand (US$ 21,000) and 320,000 rand (US$ 45,000).

The underlying belief behind the Kuyasa Fund is that by improving the quality of housing, people improve the education, health and social status of the household. It enhances pride and the process of improving a home builds the self-esteem of the borrower, mostly women, and creates empowerment in other aspects of their lives.

The Entrepreneur
Olivia van Rooyen holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of South Africa, and a Bachelor in Business Administration (Honours) and an MBA from Stellenbosch University. Prior to the establishment of Kuyasa in 1999 she held positions with the Development Action Group as a project manager with a specific focus on end-user finance projects. She has held training positions with the Community Bank Foundation and the Savings and Credit Co-Operative League, and was a trade unionist, unionizing rural workers in the retail and hospitality industry.