Muhammad Yunus is famed for being the ‘Banker to the Poor’, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he is globally respected for his fight against poverty. He was born in Chittagong, a coastal city in Bangladesh, and saw first hand the negative effects poverty can have on people. Muhammad earned a PhD in Economics from Vanderbilt University and later became a Professor of Economics at Middle Tennessee State University. When he returned to Bangladesh to head the Economics department at Chittagong University years later, he was forced to admit the country’s immense suffering whilst on a field trip with his students.
Motivated by what he saw, Muhammad was inspired to develop his revolutionary micro-credit system through the Grameen Bank in 1976. The banking option, which has achieved phenomenal success in helping the 5.6 million poor people in Bangladesh gain a better quality of life, was founded on Muhammad’s belief that credit should be a basic human right. Muhammad stated that “nothing in the economic theories I taught reflected the life around me. How could I go on telling my students to make belief stories in the name of economics? I needed to run away from these theories and from my textbooks and discover the real-life economics of a poor person’s existence.” From there, he discovered that by offering people tiny loans for self-employment, he could create a more inclusive, less classist banking system.
Fully established in 1983, The Grameen Bank has more than 250 institutions in nearly 100 countries, offering micro-credit programs based on the Grameen Bank model. One expert in innovative government suggested that the program “is the single most important development in the third world in the last 100 years”.
Alongside the bank he created, Muhamad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 “for [his] efforts to create economic and social development from below.” His further accolades include being regarded as one of The 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years by Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia, ranking as one of the top 12 business leaders by Time magazine in 2006, presenting him amongst 60 years of Asian Heroes. In 2008, Muhammad was voted 2nd on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals in an open online poll conducted by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (United States). And finally, he was awarded the Golden Biatec Award, for his contribution to economic, social, scientific, educational and cultural development in the Slovak Republic, in 2009.
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