Since 1994, housing has remained at the forefront of the national agenda. Three million houses have been built in 17 years, but there remains a chronic shortage of one of the most basic human needs. Although the intention of the People’s Housing Process is to create sustainable housing developments where township residents can own their own properties, the reality is many do not have regular incomes, cannot access formal banks for loans and cannot afford the unexpected costs associated with home ownership.
Olivia van Rooyen started the Kuyasa Fund — a non-profit organisation that helps disadvantaged people build financial and social capital through housing loans — on the premise that poor people are credit-worthy and deserve the chance to build better lives.
The Kuyasa Fund enables living in a secure place, changing neighbourhoods and empowering communities with the pride of home ownership
With a BCom from Unisa, a BBA and MBA from the University of Stellenbosch and an enduring activist bent, Van Rooyen learned about the link between poverty, housing and security of shelter in her first formative job working for the Unemployed Workers Movement. Most significantly, she learned of “the power, energy, resourcefulness and hope of poor people to change their lives”. This shifted her focus to development finance working at the Savings and Credit the Cooperative League, the Community Bank and the Development Action Group, where she learned about the power of savings, the role of financial services to fight poverty and everything she needed to formally register the Kuyasa Fund in 2002.
In nearly a decade, the Kuyasa Fund has helped 23 455 clients in the Western and Eastern Cape. An overwhelming 79% of the fund’s clients earn less than R3 500 a month
and 76% are women, as prioritised by Van Rooyen. Using microfinance services — mobi-lising savings and small, incremental loans — the Kuyasa Fund enables families to live in a secure place, changing neighbourhoods and empowering communities with the pride of home ownership.
In 2010, Van Rooyen was recognised at the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Awards and by the Schwab Foundation as the South African Social Entrepreneur of the year for her work in helping people with low incomes to build better homes and better lives.
— Lu Larché