Kenya's Ruto launches 'hustler fund' small loan scheme

NAIROBI, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Kenyan President William Ruto on Wednesday launched a small loan scheme dubbed the “hustler fund”, a major plank of an election campaign in which the long-time politician presented himself as a self-made businessman eager to help fellow Kenyans get ahead.

Ruto made Kenya’s class divisions the centrepiece of his August campaign to become president, promising to reward low-income “hustlers” and drawing support across ethnic cleavages.

The fund, worth 50 billion shillings ($409 million) a year over the next five years, would help liberate more than 15 million people from predatory lenders by offering loans of up to 50,000 shillings, Kenya’s presidency said on Twitter.

Lending at an annual rate of 8%, the fund is many times cheaper than the average lender in the market, Ruto said in a speech in the capital Nairobi, reneging on a promise made during campaigning to offer the credit interest free.

“The Hustler Fund will help small business owners, liberate ordinary Kenyans from shylocks and help establish a culture of saving, investment and social security,” Ruto said on Twitter.

“Today, we have kept our commitment to connect millions of ordinary Kenyans with access to affordable credit,” he said.

Accessible via mobile phone-based money platforms, the credit will be provided through four products: personal finance, micro loans, small and medium sized enterprise loans and start-up loans, the country’s biggest telecoms operator Safaricom said on Twitter. ($1 = 122.3500 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by Hereward Holland Editing by Mark Potter)