KENYA – The University of Nairobi and Qwetu Student Housing, a student accommodation provider have announced a partnership on a 2,800 capacity Qwetu and Qejani Student Residence at the University of Nairobi’s (UoN) Chiromo campus.
The facility will offer UoN students an opportunity to relish Qwetu’s student residences at an affordable cost and more importantly, alleviate the acute student housing shortage at UoN.
Qwetu and Qejani Chiromo will be the 11th Qwetu facility in the country, comprising of 850 beds of the flagship residences – Qwetu Student Residences and 1,950 beds of the more affordable brand – Qejani Student Residences.
The facility is expected to accommodate students from both the main and Chiromo UoN campuses. UoN currently has an acute shortage of over 45,000 beds.
The development comes at a time when the need for on-campus accommodation is at an all-time high. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), university enrolment in Kenya has increased from 27,000 in 1989 to about 500,000 currently with no corresponding investment in accommodation leading to a huge gap.
The existing capacity for student accommodation in the country is limited with the majority of higher institutions only catering for approximately 20 per cent of their student population.
In addition, Kenya is undergoing rapid urbanization with 40 million new people expected to move into urban centres in the next 30 years.
This rapid urbanization combined with a large youth population is driving the dire need for clean, safe, conducive, amenable, and yet affordable student accommodation.
Speaking during the project’s official dedication and laying of the foundation stone ceremony held at the UoN Chiromo Campus, University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Stephen Gitahi described the partnership between UoN and Acorn Holdings Limited as one that would help address accommodation challenges at the institution.
“We believe that even as we continuously look for ways to improve our physical assets, the market entry of private developers such as Acorn Holdings, who have significantly transformed student housing in the country, is a welcome move,” Gitahi said.
He noted that such partnerships will further enhance access to affordable, quality and secure student accommodation adding that it underlines the University’s commitment to ensure adequate housing for a growing student population.
The Qwetu hostels will greatly support the University’s internationalization program. International students will have access to world-class accommodation next to the University.
“Our core mandate as the University of Nairobi is to teach and conduct research. Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to our student fraternity to provide decent, affordable and safe housing and such public-private partnerships allow us to accomplish the same in an efficient manner,” he said.
On his part, Acorn Holdings Ltd CEO, Edward Kirathe, expressed delight with the strategic partnership between the two institutions adding that the facility will be great for students seeking quality accommodation in a convenient location within the University.
“We are excited to partner with UoN and we look forward to building high-quality facilities in an environment that promotes students’ success by fostering a sense of community while providing amenities that ease their day-to-day lives,” he said.
Qwetu currently has a portfolio of 10,000 beds of which 3,800 beds are completed and occupied.
Launched by Alexandria Procter and Greg Ramsay-Keal in 2018, the DigsConnect platform allows landlords, estate agents and property managers to post their property listings, with students then searching and filtering through these listings to find accommodation that suits their needs, and also find other students to live with.
The startup, which raised ZAR12 million (then US$830,000) in March 2019 and last year secured a ZAR3 million (US$200,000) grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, recently entered into an agreement with the world’s largest student accommodation site, Student.com, enabling it to expand its presence to approximately 30 new countries and 400 new cities.
DigsConnect now has over one million beds listed on its platform, with Procter saying that in the most recent season the company placed nearly 17 times more students than in the season prior, with booking growth at 150 per cent week on week.