Founder Grameen Bank, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize

Recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Muhammad Yunus is internationally recognized for his work in poverty alleviation and the empowerment of poor women.

Imagine a bank that loans money based on a borrower´s desperate circumstances — where, as Muhammad Yunus says, ‘the less you have, the higher priority you have.’ Turning banking convention on its head has accomplished a world of good for millions of impoverished Bangladeshis, as the pioneering economist Yunus has demonstrated in the last three decades. What began as a modest academic experiment has become a personal crusade to end poverty. Yunus reminds us that for two-thirds of the world´s population ‘financial institutions do not exist.’ Yet, we´ve created a world which goes around with money. If you don´t have the first dollar, you can´t catch the next dollar. It was Yunus´ notion, in the face of harsh skepticism, to give the poorest of the poor their first dollar so they could become self-supporting. ‘We´re not talking about people who don´t know what to do with their lives. They´re as good, enterprising, as smart as anybody else.’

His Grameen Bank spread from village to village as a lender of tiny amounts of money (microcredit), primarily to women. Yunus heard that ‘all women can do is raise chickens, or cows or make baskets.’ He said, ‘Don´t underestimate the talent of human beings’ No collateral is required, nor paperwork‚ just an effort to make good and pay back the loan. Now the bank boasts 5 million borrowers, receiving half a billion dollars a year. It has branched out into student loans, health care coverage, and into other countries. Grameen has even created a mobile phone company to bring cell phones to Bangladeshi villages. Yunus envisions microcredit building a society where even poor people can open ‘the gift they have inside of them.’

Summary Biography

Professor Yunus has successfully melded capitalism with social responsibility to create the Grameen Bank, a microcredit institution committed to providing small amounts of working capital to the poor for self-employment.

From its origins as an action-research project in 1976, Grameen Bank has grown to provide collateral-free loans to 5 million clients in Bangladesh, 96% of who are women. Over the last two decades, Grameen Bank has loaned out over 5 billion dollars to the poorest of the poor, while maintaining a repayment rate consistently above 98%. The innovative approach to poverty alleviation pioneered by Professor Yunus in a small village in Bangladesh has inspired a global microcredit movement reaching out to millions of poor women from rural South Africa to inner city Chicago.

His autobiography, ‘Banker to the Poor: Microlending and the Battle Against World Poverty,’ has been translated in French, Italian, Spanish, English, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, Gujarati, Chinese, German, Turkish and Arabic.

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 research assistant. Later he was appointed as a lecturer in economics in Chittagong College in 1961. He was offered a Fulbright scholarship in 1965 to study in the USA. He obtained his Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University in 1969.

Besids Grameen Bank he has created a number of companies in Bangladesh to address diverse issues of poverty and development. Among the companies are:

  • Grameen Phone (a mobile telephone company),
  • Grameen Cybernet (Internet Service Provider),
  • Grameen Communications (Rural Internet Service Provider),
  • Grameen Software company,•Grameen Information Technology Park,
  • Grameen Fund (Social Venture Capital Company),
  • Grameen Capital Management company,
  • Grameen Textile company,
  • Grameen Knitwear company,
  • Grameen Renewable Energy company,
  • Grameen Health company,
  • Grameen Education company,
  • Grameen Agriculture company,
  • Grameen Fisheries and Livestock company,
  • Grameen Business Promotion company.

Professor Muhammad Yunus serves in the boards of many national and international organisations.

His autobiography ‘Banker to the Poor’ was published in 1998 & became a New York Times Best-Seller and second book ‘Battle Against World Poverty’ have been translated in French, Italian, Spanish, English, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, Gujarati, Chinese, German, Turkish and Arabic.

Main Topics

  • Economy & Finance
  • Human Rights
  • International Affairs & Entrepreneurship
  • Visionaries & Women´s Issues
  • Feed the World
  • Making Poverty History

Recent speech titles

  • Social entrepreneurship – a different business model
  • The Total Eradication of Poverty from the World
  • Global Advances in Health Care
  • Halving Poverty by 2015 – We Can Actually Make It Happen

Advisor and Board Memberships

  • International Crisis Group, Washington D.C., USA
  • Patron, United Kingdom Social Investment Forum, London,UK
  • Board of Directors, United Nations Foundation , Washington, USA
  • Founding Patron, C21: Tomorrow‚Äôs Leaders for a Safer Planet, Oxford Research Group, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Board of Directors, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship , Cologny, Switzerland
  • Board of Director, ManyOne Foundation, Canada
  • Board of Trustees, Coexist Foundation, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Board of Director, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Monaco
  • Board of Directors, Chirac Foundation, France•Board of Directors, Grameen Danone Food Ltd, Bangladesh
  • Board of Directors, Danone Communities Fund, France
  • Board of Directors, Grameen Credit Agricole Microfinance Foundation, Luxemburg
  • Advisory Board, Holcim Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Advisory Board, Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence, Virginia,USA
  • Advisory Board Member, MSC Malaysia International Advisory Panel (IAP), Malaysia
  • Advisory Board, Foundation for Entrepreneurship, Germany
  • Advisory Board, The Center For Visionary Leadership, Washington D.C., USA