Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been instrumental in lifting people worldwide out of poverty with the pioneering use of microcredit – supporting income generating activities by lending small amounts without collateral to the poor.
Professor Yunus received his B.A. and M.A. in Economics at Dhaka University in Bangladesh. A Fulbright scholar, he earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Vanderbilt University, and became an Assistant Professor of Economics at Middle Tennessee State University in 1969. Inspired by an independent Bangladesh emerging in 1971, he returned to join the Economics Department of University of Chittagong. His active involvement in poverty reduction, spurred by the famine of 1974, led to the establishment of the Rural Economics Program.
Despite the lending practices of the time, which either preyed upon or simply ignored the poor, Professor Yunus strongly believed that given the chance, the poor would repay borrowed money, put it to good use and even rise out of poverty. What started as Professor Yunus’ own small business loans to Bangladeshi villagers grew into the full-fledged Grameen Bank (which means Village Bank). Grameen Bank now has 7.93 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women, and has lent over $8.26 billion with a near 100% repayment rate.
Professor Yunus has founded several other companies in Bangladesh to abate poverty and aid development, including mobile phone services, energy, education and health care. He is also the founder of Grameen Trust, which extends the Grameen microcredit system all over the world. More recently, he has been promoting the idea of social business, a non-loss, non-dividend company with a social objective, as the missing link in capitalism.
Together with Grameen Bank, Professor Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to create economic and social development, the first Bangladeshi and the third Bengali to be so honored. He has won a number of other awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award, World Food Prize and Sydney Peace Prize, and is the author of the best-selling books Banker to the Poor and Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism in 2008. In his home country, he has received the President’s Award, Central Bank Award and Independence Day Award, the highest national award. And most recently President Barack Obama decorated him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the USA.