Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus  is a Bangladeshi banker, economist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. As a professor of economics, 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”.[2] Yunus has received several other national and international honours. He was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 2010, and presented with it at a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on 17 April 2013.[3]In 2008, he was rated #2 in Foreign Policy magazine’s list of the ‘Top 100 Global Thinkers’.[4]In February 2011, Yunus together with Saskia Bruysten, Sophie Eisenmann and Hans Reitz co-founded Yunus Social Business – Global Initiatives (YSB).
YSB creates and empowers social businesses to address and solve social problems around the world. As the international implementation arm for Yunus’ vision of a new, humane capitalism, YSB manges Incubator Funds for social businesses in developing countries and providing advisory services to companies, governments, foundations and NGOs. In 2012, he became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.[5][6] He is a member of the advisory board at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. Previously, he was a professor of economics at Chittagong University in Bangladesh. He published several books related to his finance work. He is a founding board member of Grameen America and Grameen Foundation, which support microcredit. Yunus also serves on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity created in 1998 by American philanthropist Ted Turner’s $1 billion gift to support UN causes.[7]In March 2011, the Bangladesh government fired Yunus from his position at Grameen Bank, citing legal violations and an age limit on his position.[8] Bangladesh’s High Court affirmed the removal on 8 March. Yunus and Grameen Bank are appealing the decision, claiming Yunus’ removal was politically motivated.

Early years

The third of nine children,[9] Yunus was born on 28 June 1940 to a Muslim family in the village of Bathua, by the Boxirhat Road in Hathazari, Chittagong, in the British Raj (modern Bangladesh).[10][11] His father was Hazi Dula Mia Shoudagar, a jeweler, and his mother was Sufia Khatun. His early childhood was spent in the village. In 1944, his family moved to the city of Chittagong, and he moved from his village school to Lamabazar Primary School.[10][12] By 1949, his mother was afflicted with psychological illness.[11] Later, he passed the matriculation examination from Chittagong Collegiate School ranking 16th of 39,000 students in East Pakistan.[12] 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.[12] Later while Yunus studied at Chittagong College, he became active in cultural activities and won awards for drama.[12] In 1957, he enrolled in the Department of Economics at Dhaka University and completed his BA in 1960 and MA in 1961.

After graduation

After his graduation, Yunus joined the Bureau of Economics as a research assistant to the economics researches of Professor Nurul Islam and Rehman Sobhan.[12] Later, he was appointed lecturer in economics in Chittagong College in 1961.[12] During that time, he also set up a profitable packaging factory on the side.[11] in 1965, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. He obtained his PhD in economics from the Vanderbilt University Graduate Program in Economic Development (GPED) in 1971.[13] From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was 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 in the United States, to raise support for liberation.[12] He also published the Bangladesh Newsletter from his home in Nashville. After the War, he returned to Bangladesh and was appointed to the government’s Planning Commission headed by Nurul Islam. However, he found the job boring and resigned to join Chittagong University as head of the Economics department.[14] After observing the famine of 1974, he became involved in poverty reduction 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.[12] In order to make the project more effective, Yunus and his associates proposed the Gram Sarkar (the village government) programme.[15] Introduced by president Ziaur Rahman in the late 1970s, the Government formed 40,392 village governments as a fourth layer of government in 2003. On 2 August 2005, in response to a petition by Bangladesh Legal Aids and Services Trust (BLAST) the High Court had declared village governments illegal and unconstitutional.[16]

Early career

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. Village women who made bamboo furniture had to take usurious loans to buy bamboo, and repay their profits to the lenders. Traditional banks did not want to make tiny loans at reasonable interest to the poor due to high risk of default.[17] But Yunus believed that, given the chance, the poor will repay the money and hence microcredit was a viable business model.[18] Yunus lent US$27 of his money to 42 women in the village, who made a profit of BDT 0.50 (US$0.02) each on the loan. Thus Yunus is credited with the idea of microcredit alongside Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan, founder of the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development (now Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development), whom Yunus greatly admired.[19]
In December 1976, Yunus finally secured a loan from the government Janata Bank to lend to the poor in Jobra. The institution continued to operate, securing loans from other banks for its projects. By 1982, it had 28,000 members. On 1 October 1983, the pilot project began operation as a full-fledged bank for poor Bangladeshis and was renamed Grameen Bank (“Village Bank”). Yunus and his colleagues encountered everything from violent radical leftists to conservative clergy who told women that they would be denied a Muslim burial if they borrowed money from Grameen.[11] By July 2007, Grameen had issued US$6.38 billion to 7.4 million borrowers.[20] 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.[15]
In the late 1980s, Grameen started to diversify by attending to underutilized fishing ponds and irrigation pumps like deep tube wells.[21] In 1989, these diversified interests started growing into separate organizations. The fisheries project became Grameen Motsho (“Grameen Fisheries Foundation”) and the irrigation project became Grameen Krishi (“Grameen Agriculture Foundation”).[21] In time, the Grameen initiative grew 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,[22] as well as Grameen Telecom, which has a stake in Grameenphone (GP), the biggest private phone company in Bangladesh.[23] From its start in March 1997 to 2007, GP’s Village Phone (Polli Phone) project had brought cell-phone ownership to 260,000 rural poor in over 50,000 villages.[24]
The success of the Grameen microfinance model inspired similar efforts in about 100 developing countries and even in developed countries including the United States.[25] Many microcredit projects retain Grameen’s emphasis of lending 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.[26]For his work with Grameen, Yunus was named an Ashoka: Innovators for the Public Global Academy Member in 2001.[27] In the book[28] Grameen Social Business Model, [4] Rashidul Bari shows how Grameen’s social business model (GSBM)- has gone from being theory to 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 [5] that Yunus demonstrated how Grameen Social Business Model can harness the entrepreneurial spirit to empower poor women and alleviate their poverty. One conclusion from 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 potential to empower them to become self-sufficient.


Muhammad Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Grameen Bank, for their efforts to create economic and social development. In the prize announcement The Norwegian Nobel Committee mentioned:[2]
Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea. From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty.
Muhammad Yunus was the first Bangladeshi to ever get a Nobel Prize. After receiving the news of the important award, Yunus announced that he would use part of his share of the $1.4 million award money to create a company to make low-cost, high-nutrition food for the poor; while the rest would go toward setting up an eye hospital for the poor in Bangladesh.[29]Former U.S. president Bill Clinton was a vocal advocate for the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Muhammed Yunus. He expressed this in Rolling Stone magazine[30] as well as in his autobiography My Life.[31] In a speech given at University of California, Berkeley in 2002, President Clinton described Dr. Yunus as “a man who long ago should have won the Nobel Prize [and] I’ll keep saying that until they finally give it to him.”[32] Conversely, The Economist stated explicitly that Yunus was a poor choice for the award, stating: “…the Nobel committee could have made a braver, more difficult, choice by declaring that there would be no recipient at all.”[33]
He is one of only seven persons to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom,[34] and the Congressional Gold Medal.[35] Other notable awards include the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1984,[36] the World Food Prize,[37] the International Simon Bolivar Prize (1996),[38] the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord[39] and the Sydney Peace Prize in 1998,[40] and the Seoul Peace Prize in 2006. Additionally, Dr. Yunus has been awarded 50 honorary doctorate degrees from universities across 20 countries, and 113 international awards from 26 different countries including state honours from 10 countries.[41] Bangladesh government brought out a commemorative stamp to honour his Nobel Award.[42]
Professor Yunus was named by Fortune Magazine in March 2012 as one of 12 greatest entrepreneurs of the current era.[43] In its citation, Fortune Magazine said ″Yunus’ idea inspired countless numbers of young people to devote themselves to social causes all over the world.″In January 2012, Professor Yunus featured in “Transformative Entrepreneurs: How Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Muhammad Yunus and Other Innovators Succeeded” a book by Jeffrey Harris[disambiguation needed].[44]Professor Yunus was named “Nobel-Laureate-in-Residence” at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia) on 15 July 2011.[45]
Professor Yunus delivered the Seventh Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture.[46]In January 2008, Houston, Texas declared 14 January as “Muhammad Yunus Day”.[47]On 15 May 2010, Yunus gave the commencement speech at Rice University for the graduating class of 2010. On 16 May 2010, Yunus gave the commencement speech at Duke University for the graduating class of 2010. During this ceremony, he was also awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters. Professor Yunus was invited and gave the Wharton School of Business commencement address on 17 May 2009,[48] the MIT commencement address on 6 June 2008,[49] Adam Smith Lecture at Glasgow University on 1 December 2008[50] and Oxford’s Romanes Lecture on 2 December 2008.[51]
He received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service from the Eisenhower Fellowships at a ceremony in Philadelphia on 21 May 2009. He was also voted 2nd in Prospect Magazines 2008 global poll of the world’s top 100 intellectuals.[52]Yunus was named among the most desired thinkers the world should listen to by the FP 100 (world’s most influential elite) in the December 2009 issue of Foreign Policy magazine.[53] On 1 March 2010, Yunus was awarded the prestigious Presidential Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. This is the highest honour available from the University.
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