Microcredit for social welfare, not for anything else: Yunus
Star Business Report
Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad yesterday said a line must be drawn between microcredit and non-microcredit organisations to tell apart the society-orientated operations from the money making ones.
"We introduced the microcredit system so that the poor can get rid of poverty and create self-generated employment. The whole thing was to help the poor. The idea of making money never crossed my mind," said the founder of Grameen Bank.
The microcredit pioneer spoke at an event, “Come Together: Social Business Event” on the premises of American International School Dhaka.
His comments came at a time when the microfinance movement is facing questions over whether the industry has lost sight of its main goal of alleviating poverty, as many microfinance organisations around the world seek to provide profits to those investing money.
Prof Yunus said microcredit is for social welfare, not for anything else. Microcredit has been very much in the news these days, he said. "When we became popular, many people came and said, 'Why don't you make money? You can make a lot of money out of it.' Some made a lot of money to the tune of millions of dollars, particularly in Mexico."
"Recently in India, SKS Microfinance went for IPO (initial public offering) and made a lot of money. That is not microcredit."
Yunus said: "Now the time has come to distinguish microcredit operations from non-microcredit ones. Microcredit is something that works for the people and the whole organisation is dedicated for their welfare."
"I am not against people doing business. But I will request them not to use the word microcredit when they do other businesses. People might get confused."
The American International School in association with Yunus Centre, a global hub for social business, organised the daylong event in an effort to teach students how the increasingly popular concept can help solve social problems.
The event was the culmination of a series of events geared to teach the middle and high school students of the American International School and four other schools about social business and how it can be a powerful tool to fight social problems.
About 1,500 guests including ambassadors, dignitaries, students and teachers of American International School Dhaka, Australian International School, International School Dhaka, Scholastica and Sir John Wilson School attended the programme.
During his keynote speech, Prof Yunus, who is popularising the social business theory across the world, said the minds of the students are fresh.
"The fresher the mind is the quicker it will be able to find solutions to problems. Conversely, older minds stick to a mindset that finds it difficult to get new ideas."
"Ideas are floating in students' young minds. We have to open doors for them to make their ideas expressed. This is the process that can bring up all the ideas."
Yunus also countered criticisms that he has opened a number of social business ventures to become rich. "We have seen there are a number of problems which cannot be solved within the activities of Grameen Bank. So, whenever we saw a problem we have set up a social business initiative.”
"We have created a large number of social business companies to solve a number of problems," he said. "It is the fault in the structure of our educational system that teaches business to be a for-profit organisation."
"We are all fitted with glasses of profit maximisation, which does not see problems. We will have to put on glasses of social business."
Shaundele Leatherberry, high school principal of the American International School, said the world needs business that has ethics.
She also said the world is a different place today, which needs globally-minded citizens to solve global issues. "The world has become so small that we can no longer think of own facilities. We have to think beyond the boundaries.”
"From this paradigm shift, we need to look at problems. We need to think out of the box,” said Leatherberry.
A number of booths were set up on the event venue, where activities of Grameen's various social business initiatives such as Grameen Danone, Grameen Veolia, Grameen BASF, Grameen Intel, Grameen UNIQLO, Grameen Yukiguni Maitake, Grameen GC Eye Care Hospital and Grameen Shakti were presented.
The daylong event, sponsored by Multimedia Group, Panther Media, Transcom Beverages and Meghna Group, also featured songs, puppet show and folk dance among other activities.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh James F Moriarty was also present on the occasion.