Pioneer Yunus promotes a social business network
In a society obsessed with maximizing profit, Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and pioneer of microfinance through Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, has a new goal: to get business and finance to take off its ‘profit-maximizing glasses’ and think about its role in society instead
Chatham House was an appropriate venue for the interview with Muhammad Yunus. The international meeting place for open debate and discussion has welcomed some of the world’s most influential people during its 90-year history. With his original ideas and insight, Yunus falls firmly into this category. At the age of 71, Yunus has a remarkable CV. After graduating from Dhaka University in Bangladesh, Yunus travelled to Vanderbilt University in the US to study economics on a Fulbright Scholarship. At Vanderbilt, Yunus gained a PhD in economics before moving to Middle Tennessee State University to take up a job as an assistant professor. After a short stint, Yunus returned to Bangladesh to head the economics department at Chittagong University.
It was back in Bangladesh that Yunus pioneered Grameen Bank – a bank for the poor. Founded in the 1970s, Grameen is a microfinance institution, which mainly provides small loans at affordable rates to deprived women in Bangladesh. Today, Grameen Bank has 2,565 branches, works in 81,379 villages and has more than 22,000 staff in Bangladesh. It has even transferred the model to New York: “The idea that microfinance is something for developing markets is a myth,” says Yunus.