President William Ruto on Wednesday, December 30, launched the Financial Inclusion Fund, popularly known as the Hustler Fund.
The head of state kicked off the historic affirmative action fund at an event held at the Greenpark Terminus in Nairobi - and attended by various stakeholders who will be involved in the fund’s operationalisation.
Individual applicants will qualify for loans between Ksh500 and Ksh50,000 - the specific amount will be determined by a credit score using various parameters - including evidence of ability to repay.
The government has partnered with financial institutions and all leading telecommunications companies as part of the distribution system.
Applications will be done through a USSD code provided by leading telcos, including Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom. They will all use one code *254#, after which you will register with your national identity card.
The HustlerFund mobile app will also be available on Google Play and App Store where you can register with a smartphone.
“The main difference between the Hustler Fund and other credit products is that, firstly, you do not need to know someone or go through an application committee. It is just you and your phone. It does not matter whether you have been negatively listed on CRB. Secondly, the rates are much less than what other credit facilities offer,” Ruto said.
He added that 160,000 Kenyans had attempted to access credit products on Wednesday alone through these platforms.
Among those present included Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Cabinet Secretaries Njuguna Ndung’u (Treasury), Simon Chelugui (Cooperatives and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Development), and Moses Kuria (Trade, Industrialization, and Investments), among others.
Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, KCB CEO Paul Russo, and their counterparts from Airtel and Telkom were also present.
I'm grateful to the many leaders, CEOs of banks who've come together to help us fashion the Hustler Fund. It is not every day you see competitors work together. I appreciate,” the President said during the launch.
The official launch came a day after the Cabinet issued more guidelines on the operationalization of the fund – including an announcement that the application would be purely online-based.
There will be no paperwork, and the approval process will follow the same format used by digital lenders and mobile-based loans.
“All four product offerings will be delivered electronically and with no requirements to fill any manual forms or to secure any third-party guarantors. As such, the Hustler Fund will be delivered without any bureaucracy,” a statement from State House reads in part.
President Ruto indicated that the loans provided through the Hustler Fund, will extend capital to at least 8 million Kenyans who have been locked out of mainstream borrowing after being negatively listed by Credit Reference Bureaus (CRBs).
Among the beneficiaries of the Hustler Fund are small-scale traders who supply fresh agricultural produce to Twiga Foods – an agri-tech firm that uses technology to connect farmers and vendors to consumers of fresh produce.
President Ruto promised that the government had set aside Ksh300 million which will be given to Twiga Foods – for purposes of distributing to its vendors – estimated at over 140,000.
“The Ksh300 million that you lend to your 140,000 suppliers and customers across Kenya, we are going to make that amount of money available to you so that they can borrow at lower rates and hopefully increase their earnings,” Ruto stated.
The figure translates to an average of Ksh21,400 per applicant – indicating the government’s commitment to supporting agriculture and the food economy, which are some of the sectors cited as having been excluded from mainstream credit facilities.
The Kenya Kwanza government is hoping to use the Hustler Fund to push digital loan lenders to lower their rates – by offering a competitive offering.
The communique released by State House after the Cabinet meeting compared the Hustler Fund interest rates with those from the digital loan lenders.
The interest rate for the government-funded loan is 8% per annum – which translates to about 0.02% per day.
Borrowers must repay the loan amount within 14 days from the disbursement date. This means that if you borrow Ksh5,000 at 8% interest a year, in 14 days, the interest will be Sh15.3. You will repay Ksh5,015.3 via mobile money platforms from the partner telcos.
“The fund is part of the administration’s answer to predatory lending that historically has denied many households an opportunity to make their rightful contribution to nation-building. The Fund is expected to offer much-needed relief and a new lease of life to over 8 million Kenyans who had been blacklisted by various credit rating agencies.
“Besides being accorded a second chance to access the credit needed to grow their enterprises, the Hustler Fund also offers affordable credit by charging of interest of 0.002% per day, which is 500 times cheaper than the cheapest current products which range between 1% to 10% per day.”
The Hustler Fund does not have limitations for individual applicants - all Kenyans of adult age will qualify for loans.
However, subsequent applications will consider the borrower’s repayment history in deciding whether they qualify for a loan or not.
The funds will be availed in three different forms:
The Hustler Fund will be heavily linked to the government’s programme to increase savings under the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) -the body mandated to collect and manage pensions contributed through the public sector programmes.
Once you qualify for a loan, 5% of the amount will be automatically deducted and credited to your saving account. For instance, if you borrow and get approved for a loan of Ksh1,000, you will receive Ksh950, while Ksh50 will be held in savings.
Of the withheld amount, 70% of it will be saved for pensions (Ksh35) in our example - while 30 percent (Ksh15) will be held in the Hustlers Fund’s short-term account.
For borrowers who are not formally employed, every contribution made to the savings will be matched by the government - on a 2:1 ratio.
This means if you contribute Ksh50 to the fund, the government will top up your savings with Ksh25 and your total pension held by NSSF will be Ksh75.
Notably, the government is yet to set up a board or a secretariat that will manage the fund and be in charge of the day-to-day activities.
The Treasury, in its proposed regulations for the Hustler Fund, had indicated that the resources would be managed by an eight-member board, including a chairperson who will be appointed by the president.
The regulations further proposed a secretariat headed by a Chief Executive Officer - also the Secretary to the Board, and will be in charge of daily operations.
The president, however, on Wednesday appeared to contradict the gazetted regulations - saying that there would be no secretariat to manage the funds.
“Some people are asking why the Hustler Fund does not have a secretariat, we have decided that technology will be the only secretariat. I also say sorry to MPs who thought there would be a committee - we have done away with all bureaucratic hurdles,” the President stated.
The current operations of the fund are under the Ministry of Cooperatives and Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Development.