Kenya: Ruto’s Hustler Fund stirs controversy after ‘free money’ tag dropped

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 1 December 2022 14:20

William Ruto during the launch of Hustler Fund at Green Park Terminus, Nairobi on 30 November 2022. (photo: @WilliamsRuto)

President William Ruto has launched his KSh50bn Hustler Fund scheme, one of the promises he made during the electoral campaigns. The fund focuses on the youth and those engaged in small businesses and seeks to improve financial access. However, critics say it offers nothing new compared to other digital lenders who are already in existence.

The fund is aimed at providing affordable loans to Kenyans who own informal businesses and is accessible through a USSD code or a mobile phone application.

“There will be no requirements to fill any manual forms or to secure any third-party guarantors. The fund will be without any bureaucracy,” Ruto said during the launch in Nairobi.

The loans will range from $4 to $400 with a repayment period of 14 days at an interest rate of 8% per annum.

During the electoral campaigns, Ruto had promised that the fund would be free, but after winning the presidency, he seems to have changed tune.

“There is no free money,” Ruto recently said.

A few hours after the launch, Simon Chelugui (the cooperatives and MSMEs minister) said over 1.1 million Kenyans had registered and a total of KSh408m had already been disbursed.

Ruto’s Hustler Fund criticised

MPs in Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja Coalition have however criticised the Ruto government over the Hustler Fund.

Junet Mohamed told parliament that the fund will not meet Kenyans expectations as Ruto had promised free money, but later rescinded.

“How can you get a loan with interest of 8% and you are a hustler? ” he asked.

Former Senator Billow Kerrow, a financial expert who once served as the chairperson of the Senate finance and budget committee, says he does not see anything new with the fund.

“There’s nothing revolutionary about the Hustler fund; there’s Fuliza and other digital credit providers,” he says.

Who is eligible?

Ruto said the fund, which is targeting eight million people, is open to Kenyan citizens from the age of 18.

The borrower must have a valid national identity card and must have registered his/her mobile phone number with a telecommunication company in Kenya.

Ruto promised to give us the money free, I’m disappointed.

John Wanyama, 28, owns a small vegetable kiosk in Lucky Summer Estate in Nairobi. He voted for Ruto and says he will borrow from the fund to expand his business.

However, he believes the government should increase the number of days for repayment from 14 to at least one month.

“I have been waiting for this launch, but I’m disappointed [that] the time to repay is too short,” he tells The Africa Report.

Florence Achieng, 24, who sells fish every evening in Kasarani Estate in Nairobi, says the fund is not appealing, and she will not bother borrowing money from it.

“Ruto promised to give us the money free, I’m disappointed.”

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