Thursday, February 24, 2005
The father of microlending
In this Knowledge @ Wharton profile, there's an interview with Muhammad Yunus. What he started in 1976 has grown into a worldwide phenonmenon and is still as relevant today as it was then, to give poor people the tools they need to build a better life.
Last year, a panel of judges from Wharton joined with Nightly Business Report, the most-watched daily business program on U.S. television, to name the 25 most influential business people of the last 25 years. On that list was Muhammad Yunus, managing director of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and a pioneer in the practice of microcredit lending. Grameen Bank received formal recognition as a private independent bank in 1983 and, as of this month, had dispersed close to $5 billion in loans to four million borrowers, 96% of them women. Grameen's strategy is to offer miniscule loans to very poor people, giving them the means to generate income and work their way out of poverty. Yunus was featured in a book entitled, Lasting Leadership: Lessons from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times, co-authored by Knowledge@Wharton and Nightly Business Report...
Yunus: While I traveled around the country, I told myself, 'As a person, forget about the tool box. As a human being, I can go out and be available to help another person.' So that's what I started doing. This was back in 1974. I saw how people suffered for a tiny amount of money. They had to borrow from the moneylender, and the moneylender took advantage of them, squeezed them in a way that all the benefits passed on to the moneylender and none remained for the borrowers. So I made a list of people who needed just a little bit of money. And when the list was complete, there were 42 names. The total amount of money they needed was $27. I was shocked. Here we were talking about economic development, about investing billions of dollars in various programs, and I could see it wasn't billions of dollars people needed right away. They needed a tiny amount of money. This was in 1976.