[Interview] Dakin Parker introduces Kinfundi, a new way to provide for education costs in South Africa
Dakin Parker returns to South Africa, after ten years in the United States, to change the way education is financed in South Africa. His interview with Africa Business Communities:
Please introduce Kinfundi and tell us how it works exactly.
Kinfundi is a product of the Trusted Education Group, a company that has been developing and operating innovative education-savings products for nearly four years.
Kinfundi is a brand new category of fringe benefits; it is the first publicly available employee benefit focused on education savings. Kinfundi is a way for staff, with the help of their employers, to provide for the future tuition costs of their families. Employers enroll their business and employees, remitting monthly contributions from the company themselves and from employees, to Kinfundi. These build up in the employees’ accounts for use when their families need to pay tuition fees. Trusted Education Group ensures that these accounts are managed appropriately and the funds invested wisely.
Account balances grow with the interest, dividends and capital growth that Kinfundi is able to achieve and, based on a growth rate decision, it then distributes to Kinfundi member accounts. Kinfundi also sources donor funding to grow these accounts even more. The company pays the educational institutions directly, which means that we guarantee that all Kinfundi contributions will be used to pay for tuition fees and not misspent on things like new furniture or a new car.
The end result is that working class families have a real chance of affording a good education, which in turn brings about true transformation and economic freedom.
To whom is this service available?
We are not industry-specific. Any employer – a household that employs one domestic worker, a retailer that employs a few hundred or a mining company that employs tens of thousands of people – is free to join Kinfundi. Companies that have already joined us include a distributor of Unilever products, a nation-wide security company and various SMME businesses in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. We are in discussions with Massmart, Italtile, Tupperware, Murray and Dickson and many other employers and businesses.
What are the USPs of your business?
The principal uniqueness behind Kinfundi is the idea of “edu-time” – it is like airtime, except for education. Trusted Education Group has therefore devised and patented a product, the Edu-Time Point, that is purchased by employers, employees and donors, and which is then redeemed for its face value in tuition fees at recognized educational institutions. One Edu-Time Point costs R1.00. This is how we can ensure education spending is done appropriately while still being able to offer the features and benefits of more conventional savings products, and more.
Who should come to Kinfundi, and why?
Every South African and every South Africa-based business should join Kinfundi if they care about the future of our country. Kinfundi is focused mainly on employers and their employees, which means that a prospective member does need to be employed somewhere or be self-employed. We will approach any employer on an employee’s behalf to introduce them to Kinfundi – the employee just needs to provide us with the contact details of decision makers through our website and we will reach out to them.
If a prospective member is not employed, then our other product, School-Days would be an attractive proposition. It is a loyalty-type product that works much like Kinfundi does, except that an individual can make discretionary deposits into it without it needing to come through an employer.
What can be done by companies and education institutions to improve the professional expertise of the South African workforce?
The challenge of competence and capabilities within the South African workforce is a complicated one and there is no single solution that is going to be our silver bullet. In my experience, the source of a lot of the challenges comes down to one of attitude: companies have tried to develop their staff, only to have those staff leave for greener pastures or not fully embrace the opportunities presented. And so often they stop trying. Many of the younger generations also arrive at their jobs with a sense of entitlement and that can cause an expectation gap with them and their employers who are often from a different generation and therefore don’t understand the needs and asks of these new staff.
Another significant challenge is the state of basic and tertiary education in South Africa. The educational infrastructure has not kept up with the expanding needs of a growing democracy, with the opposite sometimes happening: a collapse of schools universities, departments and even entire provinces, who are unable to deliver on the promise of quality education. A quality education is also expensive, and becoming more and more expensive with each year.
The world is moving at a pace faster than any time before this. And more is expected from employees in terms of time, knowledge and skills. Businesses are being disrupted every day too, all of which makes it a very difficult time to foster professional and trade expertise in South Africa. This causes businesses often to be more cautious and conservative at exactly the time they should be embracing new ideas and exploring new horizons.
But there are many reasons to be optimistic. South Africa’s improving internet bandwidth and innovative educational enterprises are a reason for hope. I am seeing and sensing an awakening of the entire population to the responsibility of active citizenry. The world of social enterprises here is vibrant and full of switched-on people with great ideas and the determination to get things done. Many pilot projects and public-private partnerships are showing promising results, especially in the sector of education and people development. But all of this is going to require hard work and commitment to getting it right. It requires being comfortable with change and being willing to embrace new ideas and outside-the-box solutions. Like Kinfundi, of course…
What can you say about the targets, plans and ambitions of Kinfundi for the final quarter of 2016?
We have ambitious plans for Kinfundi in this final quarter of 2016 (where did the year go?!). We’re hiring sales and business development staff and are also activating a network of distribution partners who have existing businesses that interact with employers in the space of HR, B-BBEE, consulting and employee benefits. Should anybody reading this want to join our efforts, they can email me directly on email@example.com.
With it also getting close to the end of the financial year, we’re wanted to get in front of companies that are struggling to meet their B-BBEE targets, especially those based on the updated codes of good practice. Kinfundi can help them accrue Skills Development and Socio-Economic Development points.
Which African countries do you predict will perform best in 2016?
I would say Zambia, Ghana, Botswana, because those are the three countries where we plan to take Kinfundi next. In all seriousness, those countries, especially with Zambia’s protracted election now behind it, have stable environments and good prospects with advancement. They all have a very firm commitment from their governments to make things better for their people and also have individuals and businesses that are dedicated to getting things right for their homeland.