|Muhammad Yunus in Houston|
Muhammad Yunus (born 28 June 1940) is a Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. He previously was a professor of economics where he developed the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. In 2006 Yunus and Grameen Bank received the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below”. Yunus himself has received several other national and international honours.
In 2012, he was installed as Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, serving in this capacity as the university’s titular head. He is also a member of advisory board at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. Previously, he was a professor of economics at Chittagong University in Bangladesh where he developed the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. He is the author of Banker to the Poor and two books on Social Business Models, and a founding board member of Grameen America and Grameen Foundation. Grameen Intel is just one of hundreds of public and private partnerships now mediated Youth & Yunus. In early 2007 Yunus showed interest in launching a political party in Bangladesh named Nagorik Shakti (Citizen Power), but later discarded the plan. He is one of the founding members of Global Elders.
Yunus also serves on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes. The UN Foundation builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the UN.
In March 2011, after months of government attack, the Bangladesh government controversially fired Yunus from his position at Grameen Bank, citing legal violations and an age limit on his position. Bangladesh’s High Court affirmed the removal on 8 March. Yunus and Grameen Bank are appealing the decision, claiming Yunus’ removal was politically motivated.
Professor Yunus was chosen by Wharton School of Business for PBS documentary, as one of ‘The 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years’. In 2006, Time magazine listed him under “60 years of Asian Heroes” as one of the top 12 business leaders. In 2008, in an open online poll, Yunus was voted the 2nd topmost intellectual person in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (United States).
The third of nine children, Yunus was born on 28 June 1940 to a Muslim family in the village of Bathua, by the burischar Bazar kaptai Road in Hathazari, Chittagong, in the British Raj (modern Bangladesh). His father was Hazi Dula Mia Shoudagar, a jeweler, and his mother was Sufia Khatun. His early childhood years were spent in the village. In 1944, his family moved to the city of Chittagong, and he was shifted to Lamabazar Primary School from his village school. By 1949, his mother was afflicted with psychological illness. Later, he passed the matriculation examination from Chittagong Collegiate School securing the 16th position among 39,000 students in East Pakistan. During his school years, he was an active Boy Scout, and travelled to West Pakistan and India in 1952, and to Canada in 1955 to attend Jamborees. Later when Yunus was studying at Chittagong College, he became active in cultural activities and won awards for drama acting. In 1957, he enrolled in the Department of Economics at Dhaka University and completed his BA in 1960 and MA in 1961.
Following his graduation, Yunus joined the Bureau of Economics as a research assistant to the economical researches of Professor Nurul Islam and Rehman Sobhan. Later he was appointed as a lecturer in economics in Chittagong College in 1961. During that time he also set up a profitable packaging factory on the side. He was offered a Fulbright scholarship in 1965 to study in the United States. He obtained his PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States through the graduate program in Economic Development (GPED) in 1971. From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro
During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Yunus founded a citizen’s committee and ran the Bangladesh Information Center, with other Bangladeshis living in the United States, to raise support for liberation. He also published the Bangladesh Newsletter from his home in Nashville. After the War, Yunus returned to Bangladesh and was appointed to the government’s Planning Commission headed by Nurul Islam. He found the job boring and resigned to join Chittagong University as head of the Economics department. He became involved with poverty reduction after observing the famine of 1974, and established a rural economic program as a research project. In 1975, he developed a Nabajug (New Era) Tebhaga Khamar (three share farm) which the government adopted as the Packaged Input Programme. In order to make the project more effective, Yunus and his associates proposed the Gram Sarkar (the village government) programme. Introduced by then president Ziaur Rahman in late 1970s, the Government formed 40,392 village governments (gram sarkar) as a fourth layer of government in 2003. On 2 August 2005, in response to a petition filed by Bangladesh Legal Aids and Services Trust (BLAST) the High Court had declared Gram Sarkar illegal and unconstitutional.
In 1976, during visits to the poorest households in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University, Yunus discovered that very small loans could make a disproportionate difference to a poor person. Jobra women who made bamboo furniture had to take out usurious loans for buying bamboo, to pay their profits to the moneylenders. His first loan, consisting of US$27.00 from his own pocket, was made to 42 women in the village, who made a net profit of BDT 0.50 (US$0.02) each on the loan. Accumulated through many loans, this vastly improving Bangladesh’s ability to export and import as it did in the past, resulting in a greater form of globalisation and economic status.
Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, founder of the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development (now Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development), is credited alongside Yunus for pioneering the idea. From his experience at Jobra, Yunus, an admirer of Dr. Hameed, realized that the creation of an institution was needed to lend to those who had nothing. While traditional banks were not interested in making tiny loans at reasonable interest rates to the poor due to high repayment risks, Yunus believed that given the chance the poor will repay the borrowed money and hence microcredit could be a viable business model.
Yunus finally succeeded in securing a loan from the government Janata Bank to lend it to the poor in Jobra in December 1976. The institution continued to operate by securing loans from other banks for its projects. By 1982, the bank had 28,000 members. On 1 October 1983 the pilot project began operations as a full-fledged bank and was renamed the Grameen Bank (Village Bank) to make loans to poor Bangladeshis. Yunus and his colleagues encountered everything from violent radical leftists to the conservative clergy who told women that they would be denied a Muslim burial if they borrowed money from the Grameen Bank. As of July 2007, Grameen Bank has issued US$ 6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers. To ensure repayment, the bank uses a system of “solidarity groups”. These small informal groups apply together for loans and its members act as co-guarantors of repayment and support one another’s efforts at economic self-advancement.
The Grameen Bank started to diversify in the late 1980s when it started attending to unutilized or underutilized fishing ponds, as well as irrigation pumps like deep tubewells. In 1989, these diversified interests started growing into separate organizations, as the fisheries project became Grameen Motsho (Grameen Fisheries Foundation) and the irrigation project became Grameen Krishi (Grameen Agriculture Foundation). Over time, the Grameen initiative has grown into a multi-faceted group of profitable and non-profit ventures, including major projects like Grameen Trust and Grameen Fund, which runs equity projects like Grameen Software Limited, Grameen CyberNet Limited, and Grameen Knitwear Limited, as well as Grameen Telecom, which has a stake in Grameenphone (GP), biggest private sector phone company in Bangladesh. The Village Phone (Polli Phone) project of GP has brought cell-phone ownership to 260,000 rural poor in over 50,000 villages since the beginning of the project in March 1997.
The success of the Grameen model of microfinancing has inspired similar efforts in a hundred countries throughout the developing world and even in industrialised nations, including the United States. Many, but not all, microcredit projects also retain its emphasis on lending specifically to women. More than 94% of Grameen loans have gone to women, who suffer disproportionately from poverty and who are more likely than men to devote their earnings to their families. For his work with the Grameen Bank, Yunus was named an Ashoka: Innovators for the Public Global Academy Member in 2001. In the book, Grameen Social Business Model, Rashidul Bari shows how Grameen Social Business Model(GSBM)- has gone from being theory to become an inspiring practice adopted by leading universities (e.g., Glasgow), entrepreneurs (e.g., Franck Riboud) and corporations (e.g., Danone) across the globe. Through Grameen Bank, Rashidul Bari claims that Yunus demonstrated how Grameen Social Business Model can harness the entrepreneurial spirit to empower poor women and alleviate their poverty. One of the conclusions of Yunus’ concepts is that the poor are like a “bonsai tree,” and they can do big things if they get access to the social business that holds the potential to empower them to become self-sufficient.