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Fund: Give data on impact not number of borrowers

Monday, December 4th, 2023 02:00 | By
Co-operatives and MSMEs Development Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui. PHOTO/Print
Co-operatives and MSMEs Development Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui. PHOTO/Print

It is the festive season, and it is already buzzing everywhere. The holiday mode has kicked in and looks like it is going be business as usual. But is that the reality! A few weeks ago, I wrote of a gloomy festive period this year because Kenyans are grappling with high cost of living and cutting down on expenditure in the wake of increasing taxes and impending high school fees in January. Well, I got some very interesting feedback that simply crystallised to one thing - you don’t know Kenyans, nothing can stop them from sherehe. Well, even the term sherehe is elitist and that says it all.

Then last week the Cabinet Secretary, Cooperatives and MSME announced that they have witnessed a record Sh1.8 billion repayment from hustler fund defaulters. This got me thinking and I asked myself how defaulters got cash to repay a record amount in 24 hours! Are they looking for higher borrowing limits going into the festive season, or are they making the most from their small businesses in these early days of the festive season?

Well, the statement by the CS is very encouraging and speaks of the ‘beautiful story’ by the storyteller who is also the star of the plot. The single story by the principal protagonist or should I say antagonist and a flat plot that does not have any conflict. You see, the hustler fund is one fund that I have extolled as life changing. Such models have been used to change lives and China is an ideal global best practise to benchmark with. But the reality is that the data bandied talks of borrowers and not the impact. In fact, the testimonials we have had are from the very people running this fund and not the end users which rides on very little credibility when situated broadly.

Remember Kenyans have a high proclivity to see government loans as free money. The Youth Enterprise Fund at its peak had a default rate of around 97 per cent in the Western and Nyanza region and an average of nearly 90 per cent all over the country. Therefore, we are looking at a less romanticised history that bellies the good, single story of the hustler fund. But we can’t fault the government, especially in its communication. Maybe our purveyors of public interest should do every Kenyan a service and dive deep into the complete story of the fund.

You see, its not about how many Kenyans have borrowed, have repaid and how much has been borrowed over time. No. That data is not useful to anyone, especially if we don’t have the bigger picture of how the borrowers have built businesses, moved from non direct tax paying to direct tax paying MSMEs. We’ve heard the president talk about a boda boda who borrowed and invested back to the tune of some good money. While the mathing in his statement did not math from a logic sense, it was clear that the strategic communication around the establishment is not only non-existent, but also struggling. Either struggling to get the good story to tell Kenyans because there isn’t nothing good or struggling because of dearth of the wherewithal to see or tell that good story within the right content.

You see, if there are folks down in different parts of Kenya who are making it big with the hustlers’ fund, their testimonials would be a lot more impactful and indicative of the successes of the fund. How many have borrowed, what is their borrowing and business history? How has the fund scaled up their business in terms of turnovers, profits and have they, for purposes of accessing more credit, registered their business and started paying taxes? How widespread are such Kenyans today and can they tell their story? 

Perhaps it is time to situate the hustlers fund contribution broadly beyond the statements of the establishment. Maybe a deep dive by the media through an investigative piece or the government just communicating effectively on its delivery. Otherwise, we could be celebrating future defaulters who are increasing their limits for sherehe during this festive season.

— The writer is a PhD candidate in political communication

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