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About Our Guest, Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: Lydia is the Founder and CEO of 8B Education Investments, a financial and education technology platform that specializes in lending to African students so they can attend world-class global universities and succeed. A Kenyan national, Lydiah brings her personal education journey, and over eighteen years of work experience focused on issues of international politics, development, and human rights.
Prior to founding 8B, Lydiah worked at the United Nations, the World Bank, and leading global nonprofits. She publishes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including the role of innovative finance in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the role of world-class human capital in African development.
Lydiah’s Reading Recommendations:
- Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37506348-winners-take-all
- Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better by Rob Reichehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39964496-just-giving
- From Generosity to Justice: The New Gospel of Wealth by Darren Walker https://www.fordfoundation.org/just-matters/ford-forum/the-future-of-philanthropy/from-generosity-to-justice/
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Corinna Bellizzi: Hello fellow do-gooders and friends i’m your host kareena blowsy an activist and cause marketer who’s passionate about social impact and sustainability. Today we get to cover a subject that is really near and dear to my heart, education and access to higher education. Education has always been important to me personally, even as I struggled through the fourth grade with an impossible Professor: Mr Ilton. And even in high school when I had some personal struggles that led to me nearly dropping out or nearly flunking out of high school. A few people really helped me to get through in ways that I will always remember and now i’m only one quarter away from completing my MBA at Santa Clara university. My point is this, many of us encounter bumps on the road that can derail us we encounter problems of self doubt and we may not have the money, we need to pursue the education we want and deserve. These problems exist all around the globe and in Africa, where we will focus our discussion today serious systemic problems prevent talented young people from gaining the opportunities that we take for granted in the West. Those that do gain access may not be able to fund the education they deserve So what do they do joining us today is someone who seeks to solve that problem. Lydiah Kemunto Bosire is an accomplished academic and Oxford educated doctor of philosophy and politics. She is a founder and CEO of eight be education investments, a financial and education technology platform that specializes in lending to African students, so they can attend world class global universities and succeed. As a Kenyan national Lydiah brings her personal education journey and over 18 years of work experience focused on issues of international politics, development and human rights. Prior to founding a be lydia worked at the United Nations, the World Bank and leading global nonprofits. She publishes and speaks on a wide range of topics, including the role of innovative finance in achieving the sustainable development goals and the role of world class human capital and African Development lydia, it is an honor to have you here, welcome to the show.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: Thank you, thank you so much arena.
Corinna Bellizzi: With the stage i’ve set so far, the field is really wide open for you to share your personal educational path, so why don’t we start there tell us about your journey from Kenya, to the University of Oxford.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: So Corinna, that path was made possible by a lot, a lot of luck, I would wish that every ambitious young Kenyan or African had the same luck, but that’s not always the case, my story begins on boarding I was born in Kenya. In QC in western Kenya and I had the fortune to attend. High School that is one of the leading high schools in the country at the end of high school I knew of a.girl from the high school, who had gone to something called the United world colleges and that made real the idea of Global Education to me. And then I had this chance encounters, and this is what my luck begins chance encounters with information that enabled me to realize this idea that I could study in a global university, so I got to know that this girl was studying in this. Global high school and then I happened to see a newspaper classified ad, if you remember those that was announcing that very scholarship to bat high school that this girl, but I happen to know of was in and. One thing led to another I applied and out of the hundreds of applicants for the scholarship I was one of the two that got it for the United world colleges, I went to school in Wales, that was in a hogwarts style Castle that was absolutely fantastic, it is one of the schools that actually invented the international baccalaureate way back in the 60s. In order to enable Global Education and so to have the fortune to be there was absolutely amazing, but what that did for my journey kareena is that it opened up all these possibilities for me, because once I was there. Then global university So this was a fifth and sixth form school global universities came there to recruit students for the freshman class and so that’s how I ended up. In cornell I did not know where cornell was and I met their admissions Dean when they visited this high school it sounded like an interesting place New York always sounded like a good place to go Little did I know that it’s actually not in New York is. A village very far away, but I that’s how I ended up in cornell and, while in cornell. I studied government and international relations, worked in a number of global organizations, including the UN, in the health section. The nfp and the World Health Organization went off to Oxford initially fully funded and then after that notch. And i’m sure we’re going to get into that a little bit later when this is when this the the building blocks of what i’m currently doing with HP what form but that I hope gives you a sweeping version a short version of the story from Kenya to Oxford.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, it certainly does, I mean you brought up a few things that got me chuckling along the way, I mean people outside of the United States might think of New York, as all of it is New York City. Much as they think California, where I live, is all Baywatch or all beaches and really sunny days, whereas up in the northern side of the state, it can be cooler i’m reminded of a quote by Mark Twain which was. “The coldest winter of my life was a summer in San Francisco.” Maybe paraphrasing like that.vBut it literally is one of those experiences, where people come from afar, dressed in their shorts and you know flip flops and they have to go into a local shop and buy a sweatshirt and sweatpants because they’re freezing. Exactly so going from somewhere like Kenya, which is a much different climate to upstate New York where Ithaca you know is. I mean what was that, like, for you to as far as a cultural experience, going from you know these such different places did it take you time to adjust and how did you do that. So I think it helps that I had spent two years in Wales before coming to.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: A factor so where my international high school was was another village it’s this teeny little place called planetary major you’ve never heard of it unless you’ve been there for tourism reasons and. It was fairly unpleasant weather wise, there was a perpetual greenness they are for the first time I had a master coach. And when I came to Cornell it felt like a continuation of that except that in Cornell it felt like the winters lasted six months. Which i’m sure they didn’t, but it did feel that way, what will make you laugh Corinna is that, after I had finished. Cornell and worked in New York and worked in Switzerland and work and gone to Oxford and gone back to New York City my now husband, who I also met while I was in Cornell moved to the finger lakes and the finger lakes, is now my home, despite my initially thinking that it’s something I would do for exactly as long as it took to get a Cornell degree and finish. I find myself coming back, and so I spent the pandemic time up here in the finger lakes ages fantastic and calm and winter was the lovely, as of course too oppressive and you know once perspective changes.
Corinna Bellizzi: And it’s very interesting now as we talked a little bit about your journey over the years. I would like to just get a little bit of a snapshot into some of the difficulties that you encountered you mentioned going to Oxford, for your masters and then funding running out so let’s talk about that, like what that experience was and then how you ultimately got through because you did end up successfully graduating with a PhD right so let’s talk about that.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: So I think that story actually begins before Oxford, the story begins when I finished my first degree in Cornell and was looking to apply into a master’s program that’s the first time, when I realized that funding can be an issue and it sounds frivolous to say that, but after getting the initial scholarship to go to the United world colleges and subsequently to Cornell. It appeared to me because Cornell was a well resourced place that you simply need to apply yourself to it and resources would appear. If you have initiative, someone has money to enable you to do what you wanted to do so when I applied for Grad school my expectation was that it would be funded, this was initially on the back of my first degree in Cornell and my first. Major rejection was from Harvard School of Public Health, where I had applied for an mph and received an offer with zero funding. I thought it was laughable because, how could they imagine that a Kenyan would afford to attend, but that swiftly became something that I became accustomed to so in the years between my Cornell degrees, because I then did on the back of my bachelor’s I did a master’s still funded by Cornell on the back. Of those degrees between that and going to Oxford and military routine to apply to Grad school because I wanted to go on to another degree to do a PhD, for example, and I was routinely rejected. For the funding and what that taught me whether there was a problem there when I finally got an offer to Oxford for a second master’s that was funded for the first year and subsequently not funded, so how did I address that you asked so I contorted myself into a pretzel I changed colleges Oxford is organized in colleges so I’m from one to another that I had a bit more money. I took on two jobs one consulting back with a UN entity that I was with and one consultant for a philanthropist in London. And I did the kinds of things that you do except you normally do those things when you are an undergrad and you’re flipping burgers and you’re doing some other things when you’re doing your research. You don’t want to be focused on the research, except if you can’t pay for it, in which case you have to find time to do your PhD research and also find time to do the kind of work that pays the bills, but those experiences Corinna starting from the Cornell time when my application to Harvard was unfunded and leading on to my second year and onwards and Oxford not being funded. Those experiences put firmly in my pocket watch the idea that there was a real problem here that I needed to have a hand in solving. And so after the years of working across the multilateral system that I was so lucky to have I went I felt the time was right, I was able to then shift fully into this thing that had been baking for quite some time, and so I feel like it’s one of those the things that you know you have to do something about you can’t really continue ignoring it. And that’s how I felt when I started HIV education investments.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, so you know I find myself wishing that you would do the same thing for students in the United States. I realized that that’s not the focus of this, but I find myself thinking through the struggles that I personally had getting my undergrad or ultimately, choosing not to go to graduate school because of funding issues and realizing that the path, I wanted to pursue, which was archaeology wasn’t one that had a whole heck of a lot of funding behind it, it wasn’t like going into biotechnology or something else, it was more like if you’re independently wealthy and you want to study something like this, or if you’re comfortable taking on $100,000 in loans go ahead.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: So. Yeah you’re so right on that, so I do not at all wish to minimize the struggle that US or always C D students face when they are. Are students are developed nations also face when they are looking to finance their education, so you know Europeans students typically have it cheap or free American higher education is quite pricey. What I do admire about American system is that in its nooks and crannies there are solutions for students and you might it might tie your hands in some ways the option is there, my frustration when I was in my second year in Oxford was that nobody could bank on my direction of travel. Nobody was going to nobody could give me alone, there was nobody who could say here you are an African woman in Oxford we don’t have enough of you. I can bet on your pathway of trouble, you will end up having a good job for sure you will be able to pay this back that faith just isn’t there we don’t have a system for that in the US, you do have it, and it might have. It fails in a number of ways, but there it’s there on the whole. It can be improved, but you have something to work with. When you’re talking about students coming from places like where I come from that option doesn’t exist, what I would wish for African students isn’t to have them replicated the US system, which is not possible it’s to have them have something approximately similar to what students from the Indian subcontinent tab which is you’re going to I recall, I will tell you as an anecdote I was, I went to my reunion for my UK high school and not long ago and we went for tea, which is what you do in in you know small cafes and you know here was a lovely young young student from the Indian subcontinent and she was studying food anthropology at the school of oriental and African studies so us. In London and, as I typically do and i’ve always done this ever since my own funding challenges I asked her about herself and what she’s studying and I asked her if she doesn’t mind telling me how she was funding for education, she said Oh, I went into a bank and got alone to study food anthropology yes, I did and that’s what I would love it or Tony that it gives you to know that you could pursue any direction you would like, and people can bank on it, because when you are determined, ambitious, high achieving do will do well. That’s what I would wish, but I also have a bigger point behind this it isn’t it doesn’t stop at the individual when you come from the kinds of societies that have leadership that’s to has many deficits, where the capacity of institutions isn’t fair and therefore stewardship of that institution depends on people and the importance that those people have the best access to education, the best network, the capacity to mobilize capital, the capacity to get things done. And that, for better or worse comes with high quality education every society has that and I am wishing that for African countries who cannot afford to finance it themselves and hopefully what we’re building can help contribute to that vision.
Corinna Bellizzi: So is 8B also working to provide more of the opportunities to students that were in your situation where you felt like you won the lottery getting the seats to go to another country and further your studies in high school and into college.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: yeah so ultimately it is a product that is solving what we see as a market failure and the market failure is there is demand. But there is no supply there is demand or financing students who come from the village where I was raised are, by hook and crook doing what it takes to get into nyu and then they don’t have the money to attend that is demand that providers have resources either don’t see the size of the African market so it’s our job to explain just what that market size looks like or they are caught up in. Concerns around brain drain, what does it look like if we’re taking the best and the brightest out of the African continent, and we find it our job to tell them actually there is more where those came from, so you know, please you should be finding when students are smart and they’re getting into the places their first choice universities. You should be funding them to go there, because that creates peace and creates more breathing room, if you will, in the university system at home, which actually doesn’t have enough capacity right. So there’s a whole range of reasons why that is important and we find ourselves letting the market and the potential investors and supporters of this know what that space looks like, and so we are then agnostic about where the student came from is a student already having a degree from Cornell and wanting to get another one from Cornell and now has no money that is just as. capable as a student as a student who is coming fresh off University of Nairobi and wanting to come from masters in nyu, and that is just as exciting as someone who’s coming from another country, which is in the OECD, Germany and coming for the MBA in Boston right. That consistency is that they’re coming they’re originally from African countries and they. By virtue of that definition do not have other financial instruments that are taking care of your specific needs underwriting would be a specific type of risk that they are assumed to present and that’s the gap that we feel.
Corinna Bellizzi: Okay, so you know, one of the things i’ve thought about is specifically people that are international students tend to pay a much higher rate for the education they’re receiving and that isn’t always the case, I believe, private institutions have different metrics and different systems by which they initiate that let’s say international school markup but I recall that, even when I was going to Community college in Cupertino at De Anza that I was paying a fee that was something like one 10th that of the international students that were coming in. And so, international students were literally paying you know the same rate that I might pay to go to Stanford just to come to a Community college, and so I wanted to understand from your perspective. You know what portion of the problem that poses versus the other because I would venture to guess that institutions like banks partially look down on that loan because of the fact that it could be so much more expensive than funding the education of an American student.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: Absolutely, and I think you’re right on back so the way we think about that is that we’re not funding the full ride the ticket price if you build a sticker price of an education. The students that were funding were requiring that there is some skin in the game from the University, and that means partial funding already. And that then reduces the revenue expectation that the schools are having from the International schools, because I have a friend who is a dean of the graduate school. At a big state a big state school in New York and when corvids started, he told me that part of his crisis was that his international enrollment had dropped by 48% and that was dismal because those students were paying three times the rate of domestic students and the cost of attending is somewhere around the domestic students price and maybe a little bit more, but somewhere around there and the foreign students help subsidize the domestic students, so they can get more domestic students on the back of each international student. So the crisis was compounded for him, because not only did he have less revenue for domestic students, he also then had to he couldn’t do some classes, he couldn’t offer some of the stem the science, technology engineering computer science classes, that they would have that would be over 80% for him students we’re not going to be offered they just wouldn’t be enough students to be able to offer those classes that are classical level, so the point that you make is really important, about the differential intuition, but the way we address it is by not being with just simply it’s very high risk so when we’re doing the underwriting the person who needs. The full ticket price is just going to come up at such a high risk they cannot get funding from us, and so that what that does is it incentivizes the schools to to incentivizes them to think about how much do they want this diversity versus the revenue right. And if they want the diversity they’re going to have to reduce the revenue expectation.
Corinna Bellizzi: So as as far as how your investment portfolio works. I mean, I would just love for you to tell the story walk us through like a particular student maybe you have a case study to share somebody you’ve been able to walk through already or just ultimately tell the story of what it looks like for a student the your funding to go through the process.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: Yeah, so it is fairly uncomplicated because in the US, the student financing space is highly regulated and I will back office has very specific things that students need to have this close to them and that they need from the students so it’s very plain vanilla in that way, what is unusual, is that the students that are applying do not need to have a Fico score to have a credit history, because if you’re coming from you know, Nigeria, you came here as an undergrad chances are you may or may not have had a credit card if you’re going to Grad school and applying to us.. You may or may not have a file, and so the the underwrite the way we assess risk to determine whether to lend or not has to move outside the box, that is usually used to assess risk which is, you know how how are your balances, how you making a payment.: And look at broader factors, you know who are the social recommender is the reputational recommended that you can suggest what kind of program are you entering into whatever network that you belong to so there’s a variety of ways and we’re not the first to innovate this were really taking advantage of the fact that the financial technology space it’s a lot more advanced now than it was even when I was going to school and being able to use those variables once the student has made an application to make an assessment, whether we can lend the money to them or not once a determination is made that we can lend to the student the money is then transferred to the account at school. And so they basically you know just continue, as usual, if it’s more than the tuition and they were applying for living costs this call will write them a check, but the debt that transfers major this cool one of the students i’m really proud of in terms of an example, and this is just beyond the process because let’s say that process is very plain vanilla we have a student who just graduated then mph from Boston university’s school of public health. She studied epidemiology and biostatistics as an mph is from Tanzania, and it is the fascia and she’s now working in that field, in addition to having interned at mass general when she was in Boston be able to support that journey for attorney in woman young woman to be in this field that is so timely right now, for me, speaks to the global nature of human capital and the beauty of African talent exceptional African professionals, being part of that story, because in a variety of fields, these are the people who will rise to the top and make transformations in their societies, I strongly believe that. So we love to be supporting this journeys because they’re already journey is of excellence and we are playing a very, very small part but to remove that hustle of or, should I be deferring this term, should I not be enrolling sheila to be able to be part of smoothing that part yeah and that path, rather, is something we’re really grateful to be to be able to do.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, I think that’s a beautiful story, and one of the things I wanted to touch back on is something you mentioned earlier, because I don’t know that the lay audience has really heard the terminology brain drain wo I wondered if you could just expand on that a little bit so people understand what you’re talking about when it comes to this, I have personally also heard that term used in different ways, and the nutritional space, I think people like the the rhyming combinations of words to describe a number of things, so why don’t you talk about that for a moment.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: Now, thanks Corinna and the brain drain is such an interesting term so it used to be that once upon a time at independence and in the 1960s, there was a handful of doctors in the Dr see the Democratic Republic of Congo and another handful of does and professionals in you know country excellent country why, and what that did is to create this sense of scarcity about African talent. And then just isn’t enough of them, so if you attract them to come to the US you’re going to live villages upon villages, without without right that idea became conflated with, and I think this is unfortunate, with generally the global mobility of African talent, including students, those are very different facets of mobility, one is trained professionals who may be being counted upon for particular sectors, and this is true today for African nurses from English speaking African countries receiving visa privilege to go to visit privileges to go to places like the UK or the US and elsewhere. And so that that genre of mobility becomes entwined with and therefore leads to bad argument in conversation when it’s combined with student mobility, so the young, future Marie Curie who is topping a chemistry class in village school why who just managed to get an offer in Caltech or in you know B.U. look at both of instances of draining that is really a very visual term the African continent of talent and I struggle with that and since I work in the student space, let me focus on that for a second and then I’ll go to the train professional point for a second in the students space when we mobilize the language of brain drain. What we do is to constrain the choices of very smart students who should be part of global innovation ecosystems, the way I think about it, and I think I have talked about this in a number of places because it frustrates me nobody looks at the head of alphabet Sundar Pichai and says what a terrible brain drain for India, he should be back home solving technology problems but that’s the lens from which we look at. The African talent, that is in the similar space what is true about India is that we have come to expect that. You know the next Sundar is going to be instrumental in building global you know cloud computing and there’s many, many more where they come from, so we are you know here let’s see no wonder, my my young friend in London could go into a bank in Delhi and get money to go pursue whatever her dream is because everybody knows that was more of her where she comes from. But for the African continent they’re concerned that there is not enough when actually empirically it’s simply not true, so that makes it harder to make the case at the ground level, it makes it impossible to make the case. In other spaces, where people want to be demonstrating African concern in a manner that is actually detrimental to those smart Africans who should be you know going into the world and doing their part, so the way I summarize it, I wrote an article by invitation recently on the Africa report on this. I think the three big ways to think about the mobility of smart African students number one concern about it has an underlying assumption, but there isn’t enough smart talent on the African continent and that’s simply not true because we now have when I was graduating high school, I had to wait two years before I could enroll in university. If I had stayed and not obtained the scholarship that I got because there isn’t enough space, we have to like space out the students and there was a year lag period and therefore my leaving actually opened up my space for another smart students to go to university, so the reason that the fact that you know the parents on the continent is that the numbers are there, but the data doesn’t pop up the concern and it’s detrimental, so if we can address that I hope that the term brain drain can be pushed to arrest hopefully sooner than later.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well, I was honestly surprised that it even existed in this context, so I find it personally very difficult to separate that concept from a blatant racist remark. It’s as if you know we are essentially saying people from another space people from another place are somehow lesser. They don’t have as much talent, they don’t have as much of this or as much of that. It’s so difficult for me to hear it by reference to an entire continent of people that I find it quite frankly offensive it’s an offensive term.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: I think what people who work in this space are trying to push and that’s something that I find myself trying to encourage in conversation is brain circulation, we have all been celebrating the last few weeks, that the head of the World Trade Organization of vital vital entity in this time of vaccine nationalism and trade wars and we need multilateral solutions for that the head of that that has recently been appointed is a Nigerian woman. We celebrate her in her 60s heading the World Trade Organization, but her journey started with her going to Harvard for undergraduate going to MIT for her PhD working at the World Bank being part of a global brain circulation high Nigerian experience is part of the richness that she brings in every policy room that she’s in, so we cannot vilify that earlier move from Nigeria to Harvard and MIT and to the World Bank and that network that you build, we cannot vilify that and then celebrate this outcome, which is oh look. You know African woman heading the World Trade Organization, there is a bit of a disconnect there and I worry that part of that is because of the narrative that the media typically has had of the African continent, and that has had me very frustrated as a person who finds myself in many occasions, as the only Africa and or the you know, the first African doing this, or the other. And the narrative is one where Africa is a hotbed for war and disease right we don’t really think about Africa, innovation and the fact that to your point. There are you know purse per square kilometer there are as many potential smart kids on the African continent, as they are in the absolutely in any other country in the world that’s just objectively, the way it is, but the capacity to match that ability and that potential with resources and to enable it to be realized is the big gap and that’s where we entities, like us, step in, but we see ourselves as part of a broader symphony of solutions, I mean, by the time we’re coming into into this space there’s already primary education and secondary education and literacy and and so many other things that must already be in place, but all those things to one side, the reality is that the African continent is endowed with just as much human potential of elsewhere and it’s unfortunate when the narrative suggests that it’s not so we hired by having more goals, your country well as younger versions of her striding into every university, we can get into we will, over time, reduce that concern that this is a place that doesn’t have that that smart that that capacity.
Corinna Bellizzi: Right, well, I think that as we continue this forward as more people have different straits from different backgrounds gain access to education, gain access to world class resources that we will shift that tide, but I think you’re absolutely right there’s a there’s essentially a systemic breakdown there aren’t enough resources if you feel if you have to feel like you won the lottery to go to university there’s a problem and that needs to be addressed, there needs to be an improvement of resources and dimmick to the African continent, and also here in the States and communities where there aren’t as many educational resources, where you have children going to school and there’s you know 60 in a room when the teachers who teach them say you know I really need to have my class size shrink, to be able to give the quality education needed to these kids. And we see this time and again that there it’s almost like we run through these periods, where everything gets stripped to the bone. And then it, you know you need to start building back because you’ve stripped it to the bone. And then suddenly, taxes aren’t approved and you get stripped to the bone again you build a backstroke to the bone build back and that’s essentially the forever status of the United States public school system. Now, in Africa, I know it’s got to be different, and there are probably systemic challenges that you see there that could be changed, that also would benefit the entire Community. So I’m just curious if you were to take that lens you know what are the the big differences that you see from how the school systems operate there versus here, and you know is Is there something presently happening that’s working to address that from a foundational perspective.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: So there’s at least two questions in in that and that’s such an important question, particularly because covered has. laid bare the under resourcing of the public space, particularly education and, of course, health, as we have seen across the world and in the. In many African countries across the continent, in fact, a big challenge has been in the laying bare of the digital access gap right, because when schools had to close and luckily the continent did not have as terrible set of numbers as as the West did, but when schools had to close children were home, and it was impossible to get technological based tools to enable them to learn. So. We still are operating in systems that are terribly terribly under resourced across the board, so it almost isn’t fair to compare what does happen there as here is that the wealth and personal capacity to pay for a solution becomes what what. Is resorted to, and so the kids whose parents have means are able to get online Tutoring and this APP and the other APP while the kids who do not even have a smartphone within their household are being. systematically excluded now that’s not very different from here, where again you’re in covert it became very clear what those gaps look like, but I’m going to go to one point that you made earlier around what are the, what are the assumptions that underlie some of the language that needs to use in addressing Africa’s global mobility I’ll make two points there I spoke once to former president of a leading global foundation about brain drain. His foundation is very big and well known in education and what he said was that there is almost an assumption in the global spaces and it’s very entrenched that indicated Africans lose the right to mobility. His quote I am butchering it, but it was around the idea that we’ve inherited this scarcity mentality when it comes to the African continent, that even in the finest of our institutions at work on the continent just cannot seem to get over that. But there was a way in which getting over that is really useful for the US itself and i’ll go down the ratio conversation, but in a different way. The way I see a larger number of Africans in global universities benefiting the US is that they’re coming from a very different experience than any other students, just because they’re coming from the African continent, and they bring a richness and that type of difference that is actually enriching for America that has a real and present race problem we don’t have many. There were data in the in the summer of last year, around what proportion of Americans have close friends across race and it’s actually quite dismal and that can be traced back to much earlier. And the challenges that you point us to the school system, but one place where one can actively change that is that the university level enable Problem Solving across difference. Let your MBA partner, be a Nigerian and and Ivorian. In addition to a Pakistani right, so that when you grow into a policymaking role and you’re the CEO of this or other or heading what X, Y and zed foundation, you know that this. Individuals are representative of places that you may never have a close an insight into. As you did from their own experiences, and you know that there are smart people there and they do this, and they do that and you’re easily able to get over some of the prejudices that might otherwise come attached to this various places of origin as the world gets smaller and more global more interdependent, it is going to be so essential. That we are exposing our students to the fullness of diversity that is there, globally, and I think that’s going to be important, the second thing that is important in that same vein, is that. The diversity story, at least in the US is also our story about. The inclusion of black students and while the African continent is diverse it does have a majority black students or would be coming into our college campuses. That is something that is going to be enriching for us universities that are looking simultaneously to perform the function of educating but also a social justice function so i’m hopeful that this this wind that is blowing on this issue, or that is hoping to advance this issue is able to make universities and other stakeholders in this space. Be more out of the box thinking about what this diversity could do for them and what companies like ours can add.
Corinna Bellizzi: And I couldn’t agree more now, I want to get to the discussion around coven that’s impacted a lot of international students over the course of the last year. You know, we saw university campuses shuts we saw mandates in some cases, that if international students were going to stay in the United States, they had to attend physical in person courses, I personally saw this happen at my university of Santa Clara university where i’m attending as a student and the campus had been told that. Unless these students were going to be present for on campus courses at least 10% of the time or a certain number of units, that their student visa would be revoked and that they might have to go home. And so I would like, for you to talk for a moment about the implications of that type of action, I mean I would imagine that it is impacted the perception of American universities and the minds of students that might want to attend them from a global perspective. I would think that it might impact their faith in those institutions which could be a disservice to the very institutions that were talking about per your earlier comments that you know we need our universities to offer more inner personal enrichment and a global field to really be a part of the new economy that is in the 21st century.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: No you’re absolutely right that’s such an important question and there was so much distress among. You know all stakeholders who work in international education when it seemed like that would be a requirement. Thankfully they stepped back from that requirement and enabled there to be greater flexibility by the University is about how they offer instruction, bearing in mind the fact that. The students we’re not the ones that have changed their wish on how to be indicated that universities had had to do this. In order to respond to public health needs, but what that did. That, in a number of other things that have happened in the recent in the recent years is to shake the faith of many who look to the US of the place where the best and the brightest come to study, there really has been a shaken that that faith has been has been shaken I also think that it was already getting progressively harder when you graduate to get your work permit. The he that I got that when I graduated cornell it’s a you get at something called the optional practical training and, at the end of that if a company sponsors you, you get this H1 visa and gives you three years of work. And it’s it was already becoming increasingly hard it’s a bit of a lottery how how you get that which is a shame kareena because. What the US has managed to do over the last half century is to attract the best talent and the founders of incredible companies have many, many founders large proportions are either themselves immigrants or their parents were immigrants, the immigrant story in America is one that enables the society to regenerate and to always be at the cutting edge of innovation, it would seem that, with the nationalist. Turn we are forgetting that part of the privilege that America has globally, of being ahead of the curve is enabled by some of that openness with who comes in, through the borders and who we get to keep and we get to choose. Who to keep which is amazing, many countries would love that, and you are seeing many countries across the globe innovating to be more attractive to talent, I mean people are going to Canada, the UK Australia there’s a number of places where, if you graduate there is a point system if you have. Your under this age, and you can speak this language, and you have this degree here are working papers stuff tomorrow, I mean not quite the same, but something very often. With much lower transactional costs than you have in the US, so I feel that what the US has in the last couple of years done, unfortunately, is to become less attractive for foreign students and parents worry about how we’ve been addressed covered, for example, and and there’s a lot of concern about what The US is interest is frankly in in global talent, that does not stop an ambitious student from wanting to come here, but it, it makes them look broader in terms of where the options might be so My hope is that some course correction can get us back because. There is always an 18 year old getting ready to go to school there’s always a 22 year old getting ready to go to Grad school every single day across the world, and so that’s the luck, the luck, is that young people are not curse. What I hope is that the policy environment can be friendly to the mobility of talent into the US because America benefits and so does the world yeah.
Corinna Bellizzi: I would completely agree now have you seen that, as a direct effect of this last let’s say, in particular, the last year that students are expressing more of an interest in going to schools in the UK, Canada and Australia, for instance, then the US is there is there a movement there are you seeing.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: So I think it was just a broader range of places to which students are applying in the fall, we had a seminar with global with stakeholders who work on global education on the African continent and part of the discussion there was around. Just the broader range of places that students are willing to explore or the greater reluctance that students have when they have a good us offer when in previous years, they would not have had that going to be interesting to see now that there’s a set of offers that are coming up this month and next month and students will be coming up in September, when the world we’re looking very different, although that might include some of the students who differed from last year. Then they will have to be. Part of the pool that’s making choices, but it’s going to be interesting to see how lasting this effect this dampening effect may have been, but you know, there was also the fact that the global pandemic looked different. Even my parents in Kenya were concerned for me i’m typically worried for them, and now they were worried about me being in a red zone, you know you guys Okay, they worried so I think there’s a number of factors that will be very difficult to desegregate that will affect how students choose where they know this fall. My hope is that America’s capacity to self. to heal and to move forward and be a better version of itself, year after year, is something that we will see happening, and that will continue being attractive to people around the world. Now, one of the things we did see this past year was a global movement online which we’ve touched on right and I have personally been wondering if that impacts.
Corinna Bellizzi: A lot of students on an international perspective, like might they choose to go to a school that offers an online only program for their higher education. Is that a positive path for them, or is it something that you think would pale in comparison to the international in person experience that they might gain.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: that’s a great question and I think the jury is still out on what the opening up of online education and the making it. An equal of in person, education, as opposed to as our my friend calls it an unfortunate stepchild of it. What might that do to the popularity of either online degrees or hybrid degrees, I know a very, very well known. institution that until coven had only one master’s program a fully online one covered forced them to have a variety of premium degrees that were previously only obtainable by showing up physically online now you’d still have to pay exactly the same price. As I would showing up physically and that’s why I say it’s no longer than fortunate to tip child that you charge a fraction of the price for they’re having to make the new argument about how it is similar to. The physical education, but I think this is going to lead to outcome that we cannot even start to envision now we’re still in very, very early days of this one of this call that i’m really excited about what they’re doing with their online education is Minerva institute’s. Because they are if if your listeners have not encountered Minerva they should dash first thing and read about them, they basically are reinventing the selective university, the founder was asking himself. What would you need to do if you have to recreate a Harvard but to the social justice mission, but without selecting for proxies of wealth, all the things that you were mentioning earlier, that are problematic with higher education today, and the answer is this product that they have called Minerva then is fascinating including being pandemic proof, I would argue, because they are already having one of the most advanced products for delivering higher education online because classes on zoom isn’t higher education. Online that you know it is that’s not what is almost four and so products like me nervous Forum, which is what their product is called for online education is absolutely inspiring and what that might do. I dragged one of the founders into a conversation with African universities in the fall because I love him to expand the imagination of some of the colleagues on the African continent to our resource constrained. Who could enroll more students online capacity was there were covered is impacting the universities, as it is, but I see that as something that I can’t have it’s very hard to know where we go with this, but we got to really interesting places that are wonderful to to observe the second thing I was going to say about that is. The online only degree start the conversation in some quarters, particularly in the global north. Around the credentialing and the desegregation of the university, the equivalent of should you buy a Mariah Carey album or should use, you know stream a Mariah Carey song right. The University, is telling you here is the CD while the 21st century is saying oh you don’t need the CD you can just stream one song, but you. Like, and so the breaking apart of the degree, is something that is a concern in in a number of education circles, what is true about many students on the African continent that I encounter is that the credential is still a very important signal the degree, is still a very important signal and and it matters where it’s coming from, particularly if you’re going abroad to get it. Because there are very few other. ways that you’re signaling to an employer, that you can be able to do this bunch of things that they’re expecting you to do in some point in the future, at some point, there might be a way that employers have better way of working with universities, so that universities can better assess and therefore better prepare the students for the world of work where what is being assessed isn’t do you have a university degree from cornell, but do you have this three competencies right but we’re not there yet, and I think, for many, many students in the global South the degree is still premium and cause the degree at a global level comes the network, the physical degree is still going to be important, but your point is so important because. I have heard the comparison of the desegregation to the music industry i’ve also heard the comparison of the degree to you know, going couture gown shopping in Paris, you know that’s what a physical education in effect a compass of cornell is going to be while everybody else is just going to reach online or by hybrid and that’s how the mass education is going to happen and I don’t know i’m just really grateful to be alive at this time in this sector that is facing so much change and to be observing all the possibilities.
Corinna Bellizzi: yeah I will say as a hybrid student right like I i’m in an MBA program that is offered on campus and in person, and one of the interesting things that has happened over the course of this year is that many of the courses that were only taught in person were forced to go online and so, everybody had to adapt and scramble and some you know initially hated it and then loved it and others had the reverse experience so it just was kind of all over the map dependent, I think, largely on what the course content was who the Professor was and the size of the class I had the joy of being in a course taught by Robert Eberhardt who has since moved on to Stanford and he isa social benefit entrepreneur has a very interesting history and one day i’ll be bringing him on this podcast as well. But we were a class of only seven students and because we were a class of only seven students. You know our zoom sessions were pure discussion back and forth bantering about ideas talking about the case studies. And really engaging and and pretty close to the same way that we might have in person, because of the class size. So, and then I heard from other students who were forced to go from the in in person to online and larger classes that really had some negative things to say, because they felt like zoom was a poor redheaded stepchild was one term thrown around or that it it didn’t enable them to collaborate as well. And I think a lot of that probably reflects back on on the class size, so one of the things I think we’re all going to be forced to reckon with in this world, where we go into this online space is it may cost, just as much to offer a really high quality online education, as it does to offer one in person, if you have to keep that really tight and a smaller class size in order to give the same quality of education. Some of the courses, I take are purely automated and then we have discussion groups and projects and things like that. And the platforms are getting better and better like i’ve only been in this system for close to two years now and i’ve seen improvements almost every six months, and how the system is run. So i’m very encouraged to see where we had, I think this could be a way for more students to gain access from all over the globe to cross collaborations with international schools. And those have similar caliber to Santa Clara university it’s the oldest University in all of California right wow it’s an interesting spot to be. If you were able to go back to earlier days in Kenya and do it all over again, knowing what you know now what might you have done differently.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: God is a hard question because I i’m exactly where I should be, I think the journey, there was interesting and had all the stresses of being young and wanting to do things now and yesterday that every young person has, I think the thing that I, I recall, was that. I always thought it mind numbingly dull to work in the plumbing of things. Things like education things like finance those were not things that got me excited what got me excited was to be in the thick of the big political question the big health question the areas where you really thinking about the capacity of countries with with system to respond in whatever system that might be. What is really interesting to me is that I then found myself very consumed by the people in the room, you know why the policy making in this room that I wanted to be in look the way it did. And that drove me to the plumbing it, we need to fix the plumbing the way you fix the plumbing is to get. More people like me to be winning more of those lotteries, except they shouldn’t be lotteries, they should be objectively if you’re smart and you get into this call you should be able to fund it and go there, for which you will be hired. To run that program or to work in that company and so if I were to look back if I were to know what if I knew then what I know now around just how essential the plumbing is for the working on the whole system, perhaps I would be less judgmental about plumbing, which is what he was much earlier, but I also think that I would have had less heart, I would have had less heartbreak around how my various choices turned out, I do remember. Shortly after Cornell being shortlisted for the young professional program at the World Bank and that equivalent at the UN Development Program. I was really young I don’t think I should have been there in the first place, but I was interviewed and I thought oh my God, this is my dream scenario and I did not get either. And I found my life was over, like, how is it possible, but I do not get into this places where i’m supposed to be getting into to change things. The path that I ended up taking was so much more interesting and I think there’s a mistake we have those of us who are young and care about the world of wanting to take the shortest path to that, while in fact the longer part has so much to learn that you bring in. And it enables you to solve, whatever your issue ends up being with so much more lateral connections that you otherwise wouldn’t have had, I think, if I had entered the UN at 21 introduction to my detriment frankly, so I feel that you know, but if you are told me this bed, but it’s good for you, that you’re not getting this post, I would have been you know I would not have believed you, I think, knowing the things that I know now, I would just follow the journey. The journey that would be the advice I would give my younger self.
Corinna Bellizzi: yeah I mean, I find myself reflecting on similar moments of my own life, where I felt like I didn’t get something that I really wanted and that you’re off without it right, so let’s fast forward five years for a moment what is the change, you will have created with eight be education investments.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: I would love to be closer and closer to that ideal where the African student walks into a bank in Abuja or Kampala or Nairobi and is able to get a loan to go study what ever they want to study, because we know how to underwrite that risk, and we know that we can bank on the path where they’re taking because they are our best and brightest and their pathways should be enabled by financing, so what we’re putting in place a building blocks towards that inclusion. And I would love to see us get closer to that vision in a five year timeframe yeah.
Corinna Bellizzi: So what can our listeners do to support that efforts to ensure your success.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: Oh that’s a share kind question I think it’s really important that the world knows that this is a problem to be solved going back to where we started, which is. We think of the African continent as a place of war and disease, and when you think about education you think of it as let’s give some kids some literacy and some school uniforms and that’s where it ends. While it is a continent with. Just as much capacity as anywhere else and to be able to define the fullest realization of African potential as something that can be invested in is something that we really want people to open their their eyes to we also, so I think what you’re doing kareena in telling stories like ours that then gets to new years that are not yet in our converted circles is really important. We will be in fundraise in q2 so people can join our mailing list on our website and they can be you know if people are in the impact investing space and and they are interested in how you make transformative multi generational change, these are the kinds of you know that’s the kind of change that our our product has, but I think there’s something more tangible we just in the last 24 hours opened up our ladder platform we call it our ladder platform, but it’s an information and mentoring service that we want to provide for African students who are looking for opportunities. In the world looking to advance the education globally either they are already in schools globally or they’re looking to apply we’re looking for mentors people who are good at writing essays or you know resume review just mentoring African students and being part of the information ecosystem that starts to level the playing field for those smart students we’re going to have to figure out what does that fit in where do you take it and we would very much welcome people to sign on to our website it’s just opened in the last 24 hours it’s you know it’s going to be in better fees for a while, so if any of your listeners are interested in in being involved.
Corinna Bellizzi: And is that a different site, or is it still part of the same website?
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: It’s a sub domain of the website so when they go to the 8B Education Investments website, they will see services there’ll be financing and there’ll be ladder. They can just click on ladder and get into the system and then you know sign on and in due course there will be students for them to support and support do that, I mean you know, helping with the mechanics of succeeding in the world when you’re exceptional, but you can’t from the village right.
Corinna Bellizzi: yeah well, I will absolutely include direct links to that in our show notes, so people don’t have to look around, and I think i’ll put myself up there as well, because that’s something i’d absolutely love to do. Now, before we close the show I like to ask a couple frank questions just about the tips that you would provide to a budding activist who sees a problem and might want to try to fix it on their own in a new way similar to what you’ve done with a be like what advice would you give to that person.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: I think, respecting lived experience is so important, so the best way to solve a problem is the problem that you’ve experienced or the problem that has been explained to you by those who have lived. The problem right, what I find to be challenging and having worked for many years in international development, as I have what I find to be challenging is when you know kid from Ithaca Apps and goes to you know say you some people in kisumu Kenya like nobody’s waiting to be saved, whatever you come up with is well intentioned it’s not likely to be what is needed.. Having some humility and finding the people who have the challenges that inspire you and working through them instead of looking to flag plant is something that I would wish for many young activists, because I feel like the graveyard of good intentions, gone wrong is is big. And to get around that is really take a step back, what is your experience, what are the pain points that you see, or what are the allies, that you can create whose pain points you might help alleviate in a manner that they see, in a manner that they suggest. I think that’s one. The second thing that I would. I would advise is, can I suggest books.
Corinna Bellizzi: Of course. Let’s READ!
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire:I would suggest getting very familiar with some of the challenges in the bigger doing good world so there’s a couple of people that are essential reading. For that, I would say that the anon give you their address book from two years, three years ago, maybe it’s called we know steak Hall, is a good provocative read, I would suggest that rob right just giving is essential essential essential reading for anybody who’s looking to work, particularly work through philanthropy and a lot of the impact is done through that tool is absolutely essential reading. Darren Walker Ford foundation released a book called something like between generosity and justice or from generosity to justice Darren Walker I would highly highly recommend grabbing back, and these are books that take ideas that we all have bear in the air, but really put them in interesting put them in accessible ways that challenge, some of your assumptions challenge, some of your thinking and make you a critical person critical in in the… By that I mean an internal gating person when you’re entering this space is understanding the power with which come understanding the power of the institutions that you might somehow assumed to be inherently good. Thinking about how all that interacts with the problems that we need to solve and then lead to either bad or good outcomes so i’ve suggest that, for your your young activists audience.
Corinna Bellizzi: Well that’s some great reading bedside table books for me, but. Maybe not for everybody know you know, taking the 30,000 foot view, what do you want our audience to remember after our conversation today the soundbite or take away and want them to carry with them into their day.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: whenever you hear anybody saying this is the solution to a problem be very, very skeptical. Education is a tool event in itself, it comes with a symphony of solutions there isn’t one thing that is going to be silver bullet, to help us address the challenges in that sector. But it’s also one lane within a broader set of instruments, some of them might include governance and politics, something that you and I were discussing earlier before we began the podcast. Some of them might include other things, but all this is part of what one needs to have social transformation so be wary of simplistic solutions, just as it should be wary of more non causal explanations for social conditions and such an approach would hopefully make you more informed engaged in in the in the issues that you seek to to address. Well, I think that is purely wisdom, the reality is that if we just gobble down what we’re spoon fed we’re not learning anything.
Corinna Bellizzi: So you know, we need to be skeptical when we hear Oh, I have the one path, this is the one way, the reality is there are so many ways to solve a problem and often the the facets of that problem are deeper than we initially understand right, so I completely agree lydia I want to thank you so much for being my guest today and we’re having this really am rolling conversation about education and access that’s really been my pleasure.
Lydiah Kemunto Bosire: Thank you, thank you so much Corinna I loved it.
Corinna Bellizzi: I love that you loved it! So I will provide links to eight be education investments in our show notes, along with the mentorship program ladders. I’ll detail Lydiah Kemunto Bosire’s impressive biography so each of you can read a little bit more about her and perhaps seek out some of the written work that she has produced. Now I’d like to invite you all of our audience, to act as i’ve often said it doesn’t have to be a Herculean effort, it can be as simple as sharing this podcast with some friends. Or you could go to eight b’s website and sign up to be a mentor for someone who needs a little support on their own path forward. To find more suggestions like these, you can visit care more be better calm there, I have an action page with recommended actions you can take. This is updated on a monthly basis, so you can come back and take a peek anytime.
I invite you to follow us at @CareMoreBeBettert (or @CareMoreBeBettr without the final e in better) on social spaces, or you can just send me an email note to email@example.com. I welcome introductions to other thought leaders that you think we should interview. I want to hear from you just email Hello at care more be better calm and remember this podcast is not backed by any of the companies or people we feature our purpose is really just to put more good into the world, so if you can be a part of that we thank you. Thank you listeners now and always for being a part of this pot in this Community because, together, we really can do so much more.