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Chelugui: Man to make Ruto's dream a reality

Cabinet Secretary for Cooperatives, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises CS Simon Chelugui. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Simon Chelugui, the Cabinet Secretary for Cooperatives, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), is a man in sharp focus as President William Ruto's administration launches the multi-billion shilling Hustler Fund today.

President Ruto won on the promise of empowering small businesses through the Sh50 billion Fund, and Mr Chelugui's ministry is mandated with ensuring a conducive environment for MSMEs.

This puts the CS at the centre of the delivery of the pledge.

The only CS retained from President Uhuru Kenyatta's Cabinet, Mr Chelugui bears the huge responsibility of implementing the bottom-up economic model that underlined  Kenya's Kwanza campaign.

The economist with a Master of Science in Finance Investment and a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance, Public Finance from the University of Nairobi has been bestowed the onus of changing the fortunes of about 10 million Kenyans in small enterprises.

During the campaigns, Dr Ruto pledged to set aside Sh250 billion to transform MSMEs by end of the 2025/2026 financial year.

He also committed to set aside Sh50 billion annually to ensure MSMEs access affordable credit through Saccos, venture capital, equity funds and long-term debt for start-ups.

The Hustler Fund will give loans to small businesses that are not likely to get credit from commercial banks due to high-interest rates and lack of collateral.

The Kenya Kwanza manifesto projected that if SMEs were all productive, the economy would be 60 per cent larger.

“Our estimates show that if these workers were as productive as those in established SMEs, they would be generating Sh6 trillion a year, which is 60 per cent of GDP,” reads the manifesto.

Last week, Mr Chelugui outlined the framework for the disbursement of the Hustler Fund, indicating that there will be no middlemen, while the Sh500 to Sh50,000 loan will not require registration to access.

The CS said the service will be available through mobile phones.

"We will use the same method of the short code SMS to pay back the money. We are doing this to thwart any interference and manipulation by the middlemen as well as cut down on the processing cost of the cash. All we will require is the client and his phone," he said.

He explained that five per cent of the amount borrowed will be put into a savings plan where the money will earn interest so as to boost national savings and also provide those who borrow from the Hustler Fund something for a rainy day.

“In addition, for every Sh2 saved, the government adds Sh1,” he said.

Statistics from FSD Kenya show that SMEs account for 24 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), over 90 per cent of private sector enterprises in various sectors and 93 per cent of the total labour force in the economy.

The Cooperatives Alliance of Kenya report indicates that by 2019, Kenyans had mobilised more than Sh1.3 trillion equivalent to the country's GDP in deposits and an asset base.

And a World Bank Report in 2018 noted that nine out of 10 housing units in Kenya were constructed through cooperatives.

According to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the majority of SMEs collapse before their second birthday due to lack of access to affordable credit, multiple fees, levies and taxes.

Therefore, Mr Chelugui will not only be expected to lead in reviewing and rationalising all business licences as promised by the President, but also push for the reactivation of the cooperatives movement as a vehicle of development in the country.