Banker to the poor: micro-lending and the battle against world poverty

Book overview

The story of the Grameen bank is an excellent example of how social change initiatives can be combined with government and private industry support to achieve a greater outcome than the organization could achieve by itself. This book may be well appreciated on two levels. For one, it makes a strong personal association with the history of Bangladesh and Pakistan which later leads into the miserable poverty condition experienced in the countries as a result. Secondly, we have a vivid description of Yunus’ adventures which led him to develop a billion dollar bank with a genuine sense of social purpose; an unconventional approach which no other bank has taken. Regardless, Yunus makes a number of points about poverty and the failure of conventional aid programs.

Firstly, he acknowledges the existence of an aid "industry" that fails to target the poorest of the poor. The disconnection between the poor and the wealthy creates a barrier that prevents them from establishing a practical solution.

Secondly, he observed that banks don't see much benefit to offering microloans to illiterate rural folk with no collateral. Yunus, who believes that credit is essentially a human right, calls this “flagrant financial apartheid”. In contrast, his microcredit models (Grameen and Grameen II) are extremely simple to administer and use peer pressure and trust to maintain a high payback rate.

Thirdly, Yunus made an interesting case for corporations operating with a social conscience. Grameen Bank played a critical role in the establishment of a number of sister enterprises for textiles, energy, technology, education and even a mobile phone company. Such involvement may give the impression that the organization was almost a parallel government in Bangladesh, but market-driven and not strangled by bureaucracy and corruption.

One of the underlying principles to be learned is the fundamental purpose of continuing education, to apply our knowledge for the benefit of society and not for our own self-righteousness. Yunus provides an excellent chronicle of his bank's formation as well as explaining its principles and the book is highly recommended for anyone interested in social entrepreneurship or social change. Grameen Bank has provided 3.8 billion dollars to 2.4 million families in rural Bangladesh. Today, more than 250 institutions in nearly 100 countries operate micro-credit programs based on the Grameen methodology, placing Grameen at the forefront of a burgeoning world movement toward eradicating poverty through micro-lending.



Sabin Sadeh