The student population in Kenya's tertiary institutions far outweighs the capacity of student accommodation available.
Solving this gap has seen a barrage of investors - both large and small - pour resources to develop student housing.
One ambitious investor in this field is 20-year-old Benaiah Wapundi, a law student and software engineer who has founded a listing platform dupped Easy House which links students to housing providers.
“Through our platform, students can search, book and pay for accommodation,” Wapundi told Enterprise.
Wapundi faced a housing challenge when he joined university as a first-timer in Nairobi. He identifies the problems with student housing as accessibility, availability and affordability.
According to a Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) report, the student population in tertiary institutions crossed the one million mark in 2020.
Also, a previous KNBS report showed that the student housing deficit expanded by 60,000 units in the financial year 2021, as a result of the increase in the student population in universities and vocational centres.
With the rapid growth of the student population, Kenya’s student housing gap continues to soar. This situation has drawn the attention of property investors and other sector players who are making efforts to cater for the vast population of students from universities that are unable to secure on-campus accommodation.
Wapundi is currently working with property owners to ensure that the student accommodations are suitable for learners.
He says the platform so far has 15,000 users and 9,000 booking requests. 2000 of those bookings have been settled and generated a revenue of about Sh160,875.
“We have 43 accommodation options spanned across 12 universities. Our platform is designed in such a way that we ensure students get what they book.”
For every booking, Wapundi charges a three per cent booking fee.
“We settled on three per cent after looking at what other platforms are doing and we realised that most of their fees were exorbitant. We also considered the fact that we are dealing with students without an income."
Wapundi jumpstarted his start-up with savings from co-founders, friends and family.
"In 2022, we won a $1,000 grant in a competition organized by the Inter-University Council of East Africa and the German Cooperation.”
Wapundi says his venture too has not been without challenges and being a student of two majors, balancing school and work have not been a walk in the park.
“Funding has also been a key challenge that we face. We are just young people trying to solve a problem, convincing an investor that you are actually up to the task to build a million-dollar company is not as easy,” he said.
Wapundi notes that what has built the young start-up is passion, commitment and sacrifice with the business aiming to help students beat the high cost of living.
“The cost of living, including housing, is going up considerably. We are looking for ways to provide students with more facilities at less cost. We are also looking to introduce a cost-sharing model which will reduce the cost per student," he said.
Wapundi, who notes that his cost of acquisition is still high, is looking to further drive down their costs and increase their revenue while still remaining a helpful solution to students. He says he is yet to break even but projects to do so in the next 18 months.
Wapundi is also looking to expand outside the country. He says that in the past six months, 30 per cent of requests are from foreign students coming to study in Kenya.
Studies show that Kenya is the second leading market with mature purpose-built student accommodations in sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa and followed closely by Nigeria. However, when compared to international markets such as the UK, African markets are lagging behind.
"I believe that solving the problem of student accommodation requires a multi-sectoral approach roping in the private sector, industry players and government," said Wapundi.