A couple of years ago I was privileged to hear a talk, here in Bristol, by the groundbreaking and unassuming Bangladeshi economics professor Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of the “microcredit” movement. The way he had lifted thousands of people out of poverty, by lending small sums without collateral, was inspirational. I loved too the fact he had just ignored the negative advice and nonexistent support of traditional bankers and set up his own bank. He has subsequently stepped down from the bank’s chairmanship after some negative publicity (buck the trend and that’s inevitable in our world, surely?) but what he achieved was impressive in the extreme.
Later, telecoms companies wouldn’t support him in his idea of supplying mobile phones to wannabe entrepreneurs in remote villages, so he just set up his own telecoms company and Village Phone Program. (“No mains electricity? No problem: solar power. No shortage of sunlight in Bangladesh; and solar panels are cheap here!”)
I had to smile when I saw the ICC (cricket) World Cup on TV a few years ago; the Bangladesh team were wearing the name of Grameen Telecom (the market leader, above all those global brands) on their shirts.
Grameen and its founder were jointly awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. The man himself will be talking today on BBC Radio 4 (“The World This Weekend”, 1pm) about the setting up of the first UK branch of his Grameen Bank, in Glasgow. I’ll be listening.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Wikipedia on Grameen Bank: LINK