Over the eight months that the Hustler Fund has been in operation, more than 21 million Kenyans have borrowed money from the kitty, which seeks to address unemployment and the lack of opportunities for low-income earners through affordable credit.
As of May of this year, the number of repeat customers stood at 6.9 million. Mary Njambi, who operates a mobile phone accessories shop, is one such repeat Hustler Fund borrower.
When KNA caught up with her at her shop in Nyeri town, she admitted to being pessimistic about the fund at first before she changed her mind after consistent borrowing.
“When I first borrowed from the kitty, I got Sh 500. The amount that was accessible through my phone was Sh 475, and it was not even enough to restock any of the items I sell. I was forced to pay back the money and borrow frequently so that I could increase my limit. Later, the fund increased my limit to Sh 1,000, which may not appear much, but it has come in handy a number of times when I need to restock a few items and pay for my utility bills,” she says.
Njambi is not the only one with a positive story about the kitty. Moses Kamau credits the Hustler Fund for the partial success of his sausage vending business. Kamau says the fund helped him top up the little capital he had saved up before starting his business late last year.
“At the time, it was very hard for me to access cheap credit, so when they unveiled the fund, I decided to try my hand. My loan limit is Sh1,000, and it has really helped me because I was able to start this business, which is a source of income for me,” he stated.
The kitty has also received its fair share of criticism, with many potential borrowers calling for an adjustment of the minimum loan limit.
According to Cooperatives and MSME Development Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, the highest beneficiary of the Hustler Fund can access Sh35,000 after borrowing 24 times.
Currently, first-time borrowers have access to Sh500, an amount that traders like Joyce Wanja feel is not enough given the prevailing economic times.
“Even though the hustler fund was a way of helping businesses, it has had little benefit for my business. The money given out is not enough to buy stocks for my shop; I can only use it for emergencies,” she said.
Wanja also asked the government to relax some of the regulations managing the fund, such as the prescribed repayment period, which she says is too short.
“The introduction of Hustler Fund was not a bad idea but I would urge the government to lend more money without limitation and also extend the deadline duration to at least one month. This is because it will give a person enough time to repay the loan,” she opined.
The latest statistics released by the Ministry of Cooperatives and MSMEs show that the amount disbursed stands at Sh35.3 billion from a total of 41,074,603 transactions.
At the same time, the total repayment has hit Sh22 billion, with the Kenyans having saved Sh1.7 billion.