Microcredit News ArticlesExcerpts of Key Microcredit News Articles in Major Media
Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans — microcredit — to lift millions out of poverty. "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty," the Nobel Committee said in its citation. "Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights." Grameen Bank was the first lender to hand out microcredit, giving very small loans to poor Bangladeshis who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed and repayment is based on an honor system. Anyone can qualify for a loan — the average is about $200 — but recipients are put in groups of five. Once two members of the group have borrowed money, the other three must wait for the funds to be repaid before they get a loan. The method encourages social responsibility. The results are hard to argue with — the bank says it has a 99% repayment rate. Since Yunus gave out his first loans in 1974, microcredit schemes have spread throughout the developing world and are now considered a key to alleviating poverty and spurring development. Worldwide, microcredit financing is estimated to have helped some 17 million people. "Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development," the Nobel citation said. Today, the bank claims to have 6.6 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women, and provides services in more than 70,000 villages in Bangladesh. Its model of micro-financing has inspired similar efforts around the world.
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Some 18,000 children die every day because of hunger and malnutrition and 850 million people go to bed every night with empty stomachs, a "terrible indictment of the world in 2007," the head of the U.N. food agency said. James Morris called for students and young people, faith-based groups, the business community and governments to join forces in a global movement to alleviate and eliminate hunger — especially among children. Morris, an American businessman and former president [of] the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, one of the largest charitable organizations in the U.S., ... said that while the percentage of people who are hungry and malnourished has decreased from a fifth of the world's population to a sixth of the population, the actual number of hungry people is growing by about 5 million people a year because of the rising population. "Today 850 million people are hungry and malnourished. Over half of them are children," Morris said. Morris said the largest number of malnourished children are in India — more than 100 million — followed by nearly 40 million in China. Elsewhere, there are probably 100 million hungry children in the rest of Asia, another 100 million in Africa where countries have fewer resources to help, and 30 million in Latin America, he said.
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Economist Muhammad Yunus ... received the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday for his efforts to relieve poverty as a cornerstone for building peace. Yunus, 66, often called the banker to the poor, shared the coveted award with his creation, Grameen Bank, for helping people, even beggars, rise above poverty by giving them microcredit — small, usually unsecured loans. The Bangladeshi economist is the developer and founder of the concept of microcredit. In his Nobel lecture Yunus said the world must overcome poverty if it ever wants to achieve peace. "We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come. I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns," he said. Grameen Bank, set up in 1983, was the first lender to provide microcredit, giving very small loans to poor Bangladeshis who did not qualify for loans from conventional banks. No collateral is needed, and repayment is based on an honour system, with nearly a 100 percent repayment rate. Yunus said the idea has spread around the world, with similar programmes in almost every country. "Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly seven million poor people, 97 per cent of them are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh," said Yunus. Villagers, many of whom have benefited from Grameen Bank's small-loan programs [watched the Nobel ceremony] in groups at local shops. "We are so happy, wish we could all have gone there," said Samida Begum, talking by telephone from Kelia village. Begum runs a phone call shop started with a Grameen Bank loan almost 18 years ago. Her family also owns a poultry shop started with a loan from Grameen.
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The richest 2 percent of adults still own more than half of the world's household wealth, perpetuating a yawning global gap between rich and poor, according to research published Tuesday. The report from the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research shows that in 2000 the richest 1 percent of adults - most of whom live in Europe or the United States - owned 40 percent of global assets. The richest 10 percent of adults accounted for 85 percent of assets. By contrast, the bottom 50 percent of the world's adult population owned barely 1 percent of the world's wealth. "Income inequality has been rising for the past 20 to 25 years, and we think that is true for inequality in the distribution of wealth," said James Davies, a professor of economics at the University of Western Ontario, one of the report's authors. But ... there are some hopeful signs: China and India, which are developing rapidly, are gaining wealth, and in countries such as Bangladesh, the spread of microcredit institutions is helping people increase their personal wealth.
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After five years running her party-supply store out of her Hayward house with the help of her extended family, [Sandra] Rodriguez was finally moving into her own commercial space thanks to a $1,500 loan from Grameen America. Drawing on the same philosophy as Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, which pioneered "microlending" small sums to help impoverished women run their own businesses, Grameen America opened a branch in Oakland last spring. Grameen started its U.S. presence in New York in 2008, and now has offices in Omaha, Neb., Indianapolis, Charlotte, N.C., and Los Angeles, as well as Oakland and New York. Grameen's small walk-up office ... has already made microloans to 600 women for such businesses as operating food carts, making baked goods or other food, cleaning houses, selling merchandise, and renting chairs in hair or nail salons. So far, it has a 100 percent repayment record. While Grameen's loans are small - starting around $1,500 in the U.S. - the impact is big. Studies affirm the effectiveness of microloans in helping people lift themselves out of poverty. Grameen Bank and its founder, economics professor Muhammad Yunus, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Its model has been replicated for millions of people in more than 100 countries. Grameen also helps its members with financial education and requires them to set up a savings account at a commercial bank.
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I've long been a fan of microfinance or microlending where a small loan can make a big difference. To date, I've made several small investments via both Microplace.com and Kiva.org. And, in addition to doing good, I'm doing well. The money is loaned to poor people--mostly women--in various parts of the world. Microlending, like other uninsured investments, is subject to all sorts of risks. But, based on past performance, the odds of seeing your money again are pretty high. Historically, 97 percent of low-income borrowers have paid back their microfinance loans. Kiva.org is a not-for-profit organization. From a user perspective, one of the big differences between the two organizations is that Kiva doesn't pay interest. Also, Kiva is a bit more "peer to peer" in that its Web site shows you information about the specific entrepreneur who will be receiving your loan. One feature I like about Kiva is that you can purchase gift certificates for as little as $25. That's what I'm now doing for the children in my life. By giving them a Kiva gift certificate they and their parents get to chose who to loan it to and, eventually, the child gets the $25 back. It's a good long-term investment in social consciousness. And, yes, I've put my money where my words are. After a couple of years investing in both Kiva and Microplace, I have nothing but happy (albeit small) returns.
Over sandwiches and pizza, a group of high school students here debated the pros and cons of combating poverty in five desperate nations. They scrolled through Web sites, analyzed statistics and considered how much they knew about the economy, language and culture of each country. This was no mere academic exercise. The students, at the Meadows School, have real decisions to make and, they hope, real people to rescue. By the time they scattered after their lunch period, the group had deferred until next month the decision on where to spend the $25,000 they had raised, but seemed to be leaning toward Peru. That may seem like a lot of money for a student group, but it was the entry fee for the school to become investors in Pro Mujer, a nonprofit lending institution based in New York that issues small loans to poor women in foreign countries to use for buying tools to start or expand small businesses. In raising the money and investing it with Pro Mujer, the Meadows School is by all accounts the first high school to operate a microbank. The founder of the Meadows Microcredit Action Group, Justin Blau, 17, and its faculty adviser, Kirk Knutsen, have bigger plans for their endeavor. Pro Mujer will mete out the $25,000 to recipients in the country the students select and return to the school both regular status reports as well as a modest amount of earned interest. The group plans to use that interest and other money raised locally to invest in smaller, more specific projects through Kiva, another microfinance lender, with no minimum entry requirement.
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Muhammad Yunus has had phenomenal success helping people lift themselves out of poverty in rural Bangladesh by providing them with credit without requiring collateral. Yunus developed his revolutionary micro-credit system with the belief that it would be a cost effective and scalable weapon to fight poverty. Yunus told his story and that of the bank in the book Banker to the Poor, co-authored [with] Alan Jolis. In the book, Yunus recalls that in 1974 he was teaching economics at Chittagong University in southern Bangladesh, when the country experienced a terrible famine in which thousands starved to death. As the famine worsened he began to dread his own lectures. "Nothing in the economic theories I taught reflected the life around me. How could I go on telling my students make believe 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." Yunus went to the nearby village of Jobra where he learned the economic realities of the poor. Grameen Bank was born and an economic revolution had begun. The bank has provided $4.7 billion dollars to 4.4 million families in rural Bangladesh. With 1,417 branches, Grameen provides services in 51,000 villages, covering three quarters of all the villages in Bangladesh. Today, more than 250 institutions in nearly 100 countries operate micro-credit programs based on the Grameen Bank model, while thousands of other micro-credit programs have emulated, adapted or been inspired by the Grameen Bank.
Poverty can be solved, declares Muhammad Yunus. A former economics professor, who holds honorary doctorates from 22 universities in 11 countries, Yunus has seen for himself what works and what doesn’t work in Bangladesh, just about the poorest country in the world. "Charity is not the way to help people in need. If you want to solve poverty, you have to put people in a position to build their own life. Unfortunately, this is not how the aid industry works. Western governments and development organizations think they need to offer permanent charity. As a result, they keep entire economies in poverty and families in an inhuman situation." As founder of the Grameen Bank, he is the creator of a concept that now represents an emerging force in the financial world: microcredit, small loans for poor people. Grameen has become a model for banks in nearly 100 countries. "I still think we can cut poverty in half within 10 years and can eradicate it within a human lifetime. Credit is one of the barriers we must eliminate so that the poor can clamber out of poverty. Thanks to the mobile telephone, farmers in Bangladesh can negotiate directly with their customers. Via internet, farmers find out the actual market value of their goods, enabling them to strengthen their negotiating position. They are no longer forced to rely on the clever middleman who kept the farmers in ignorance and took off with their money." Yunus has demonstrated that combating poverty starts with action. And that these actions can sometimes even make a profit.
For years, writer Bob Harris enjoyed a unique opportunity - traveling to some of the most luxurious hotels in the world on behalf of ForbesTraveler.com. But, as he bounced from one five-star palace to another, he felt uneasy about the inequality of the industry: The people who build these places don't get to see or experience them. He decided he would somehow give back his salary from the decadent escapes he'd had. That's when he discovered Kiva, the San Francisco crowdfunding site that enables individuals to offer $25 loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world. Harris began lending via Kiva.org. Then, some friends joined in, building a community of lenders they called, aptly, Friends of Bob Harris. Over the last three years, they've collectively lent more than $3 million. In 2011, Harris decided to go meet some of the entrepreneurs and write about his travels, microfinance and Kiva's impact. That took him to a dozen countries - Bosnia, Nepal, Cambodia, Kenya and more - and resulted in a book: The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Loan at a Time. Recently, he spoke with The Chronicle about his travels and what he learned. Q: Did you ask the entrepreneurs point blank about ... what did they think of the lending criteria? A: I did get feedback on what ... changes they wanted. They wanted longer grace periods; a longer length of time between getting the loan and their first payment so that they could think more about long-term investments; they wanted a version of "revolving credit." I never once heard [complaints] about the interest rate.
Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their work in advancing economic and social opportunities for the poor, particularly women. The economist and the bank he founded will share the prize. They were cited for their efforts to help "create economic and social development from below" ... by using innovative economic programs such as microcredit lending. Grameen Bank has been instrumental in helping millions of poor ... improve their standard of living by letting them borrow small sums to start businesses. Loans go toward buying items such as cows to start a dairy, chickens for an egg business, or mobile phones to start businesses where villagers who have no access to phones pay a small fee to make calls. "Every single individual on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development," the Nobel Committee said in its citation. Microcredit is the extension of small loans, typically US$50 to US$100, to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. The bank claims to have 6.6 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women, and provides services in more than 70,000 villages in Bangladesh.
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Several major media articles have sung the praises of microcredit, also known as microfinance and microlending: New York Times: Tiny Loans Make a Big Difference in Lives of Poor; Wall Street Journal: A new way to do well by doing good; BusinessWeek: Microfinance funds lift poor entrepreneurs—and benefit investors; The Economist: Microcredit in India, High finance benefits the poor; Excellent general article in Time magazine titled "The End of Poverty" CNN/Associated Press: Bankers for poor win peace Nobel. Without donating a penny, you can help to break the cycle poverty in a very real way. Microcredit investments are not donations or charity. Like other investments, the money is always yours. You even earn a small amount of interest. Yet for every $1,000 you invest, several entire families in the developing world can be pulled out of poverty every year. That is part of the reason why the United Nations declared 2005 to be the International Year of Microcredit and why the individual and group who originated the microcredit concept were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. To download a free 24-page guide to microcredit and community investing, click here. And note that these investments are not influenced at all by market fluctuations.
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Micro-asset financing is a relatively recent innovation in micro-finance - which is best known for small loans issued to people trying to escape poverty by starting a business - and is an example of how the field has explored different loan models. Kiva, celebrating its fifth anniversary on [October 13], took that experimentation to a new level in 2005 when it coupled the Internet and large numbers of individual lenders with needy borrowers. Using a Web portal, Kiva facilitates loans from individuals who can log onto its site and read borrowers' stories. Kiva partners with lending organizations in developing countries, which take the no-interest loans from Kiva and distribute them locally. Kiva lenders are paid back if the borrower succeeds, but do not earn interest. In recent years, with the help of Kiva, micro-finance as an anti-poverty tool has quickly grown in popularity. Economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh are credited with pioneering the micro-finance movement in the mid-1970s by lending small amounts of money to basket weavers. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts. But the concept received much broader exposure in the United States after Kiva came along. Described by some as "the Internet generation's answer to charity," Kiva became the philanthropy du jour for a time, and in the United States, was endorsed by celebrities and academics alike.
Note: For our excellent essay on building a better world through microlending, please visit this link.
In recent years, the idea of giving small loans to poor people became the darling of the development world, hailed as the long elusive formula to propel even the most destitute into better lives. Actors like Natalie Portman and Michael Douglas lent their boldface names to the cause. Muhammad Yunus, the economist who pioneered the practice by lending small amounts to basket weavers in Bangladesh, won a Nobel Peace Prize for it in 2006. The idea even got its very own United Nations year in 2005. But the phenomenon has grown so popular that some of its biggest proponents are now wringing their hands over the direction it has taken. Drawn by the prospect of hefty profits from even the smallest of loans, a raft of banks and financial institutions now dominate the field, with some charging interest rates of 100 percent or more. “We created microcredit to fight the loan sharks; we didn’t create microcredit to encourage new loan sharks,” Mr. Yunus recently said at a gathering of financial officials at the United Nations. “Microcredit should be seen as an opportunity to help people get out of poverty in a business way, but not as an opportunity to make money out of poor people.” The noisy interest rate fight has even attracted Congressional scrutiny, with the House Financial Services Committee holding hearings this year focused in part on whether some microcredit institutions are scamming the poor.
The credit crisis may be fouling up billion-dollar takeover deals, but if you're a poor African seamstress who needs a loan for a new sewing machine, you could not ask for a better borrowing market to expand your business. Anyone with $25 to spare and an Internet connection can now become an international microfinancier through Kiva, an organization that matches individual lenders with impoverished entrepreneurs in the developing world. Steve Thomas, 50, a property tax consultant in Chicago, got started by lending $50 to a man in Togo who makes a living refurbishing used sneakers for resale. The loan was repaid in full and Thomas has gone on to fund 83 other ventures ranging from a cyber cafe in Ecuador to a mushroom-growing enterprise in Moldova. Microlending has been in use for decades. Muhammad Yunus shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank, the lender he founded in the early 1980s to help empower Bangladesh's rural poor. Several other institutions have developed since then, but Kiva is the first to open direct microlending opportunities to the general public with an online platform. Kiva hit the publicity jackpot in September when Oprah Winfrey featured the organization on her daytime television program, attracting a tidal wave of interest from Middle America. Demand was so high the day the episode aired, every loan on the site was fulfilled. Since then, Kiva has limited lenders to a $25-portion of each loan, the average of which is about $600. Even with the $25 cap, Kiva's lenders manage to fully fund each loan in 0.97 days, on average. The recent holiday season brought a fresh crop of lenders -- Kiva sold $2.2 million in gift certificates, which the givers were able to print out from their own computers.
Note: For a treasure trove of stories about the amazing successes of microlending in raising some of the poorest out of destitution, click here.
Making tiny loans to poor entrepreneurs in developing countries has long been a popular charitable cause, but it is now gaining traction as an investment. Microfinance, as these loans are known, is aimed at lifting some of the world's most destitute people out of poverty by providing seed money for small businesses. Funding for the loans traditionally has come from charities and government-aid organizations. Now, an increasing number of private funds are steering capital to microfinance. Many of the new investment instruments have been launched by nonprofit organizations long involved in the industry, including Grameen Foundation USA, the Foundation for International Community Assistance, both in Washington. Microfinance investing got a boost this fall when eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pamela, gave $100 million to Tufts University to create a fund that invests in microfinance vehicles. Microfinance investment funds...lend money for small-scale businesses, such as vending fruit, weaving shawls or operating small farms in poor countries around the world. Calvert Foundation offers Community Investment Notes, which require a minimum $1,000 investment, and can be earmarked to invest in developing countries or other initiatives, including post-Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast.
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It would be nice to think that women who achieve power would want to help women at the bottom. But one continuing global drama underscores that women in power can be every bit as contemptible as men. Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, is mounting a scorched-earth offensive against Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and champion of the economic empowerment of women around the world. Yunus, 72, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in microfinance, focused on helping women lift their families out of poverty. Yet Sheikh Hasina’s government has already driven Yunus from his job as managing director of Grameen Bank. Worse, since last month, her government has tried to seize control of the bank from its 5.5 million small-time shareholders, almost all of them women, who collectively own more than 95 percent of the bank. The government has also started various investigations of Yunus and his finances and taxes, and his supporters fear that he might be arrested on some pretext or another.
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Shivani Siroya was one of 19 entrepreneurs at this year's Global Social Benefit Incubator who have been undergoing a critical evaluation from this group, whose members also include venture capitalists and experts in social enterprise. Beyond building successful enterprises, the incubator wants ones that alleviate social needs. "People are not going to give money to you indefinitely, even if you're doing some good in the world. So we have to help these entrepreneurs develop sound business models that will flourish and last," said Eric Carlson, director of the incubator and dean's executive professor in the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. This year's gathering brought together more than 150 mentors, who will continue to work with these enterprises into the fall. One is Jeff Miller, former director of Santa Clara's Center for Science, Technology and Society. He's been an adviser since the program's inception and sees one common thread in many of the young people. "They have such huge, wonderful, passionate visions of how to change the world in energy, water, education and more. But they lack focus. So we encourage them to look at an area that they can focus on and make an impact. This can be a particular demographic or region, which makes for a more concentrated effort." Impact investing, an emerging field for social effect as well as monetary return, has been gaining prominence. But Miller and Carlson are cautious, noting that the area needs to mature and develop an infrastructure. Yet it's quickly become a topic of discussion at the incubator.
Note: For information on microlending, one of the highest impact forms of investing for eliminating poverty in our world while still gaining interest on investment, click here.
California first lady Maria Shriver told 1,000-odd attendees at the Microfinance USA 2010 conference in San Francisco. "Maybe I need a loan, too." Actually, she admitted offstage, her 2-year-old company, Lovin' Scoopful, whose "gourmet light" ice cream is on grocery shelves in 22 states, is doing quite well. And Shriver was at the conference to give rather than receive. Not only to cheer on the burgeoning microfinance movement, but to give $300,000 from her nonprofit Women's Conference organization to various microfinance organizations, including San Francisco's Kiva.org - Shriver heads one of its "lending teams" - and San Jose's Opportunity Fund, which put on the two-day conference. But that was a small tip of the growing amount of serious money flowing into the sector. "Banks, especially since they've come under more scrutiny, realize getting involved in microfinance is good business," said Premal Shah, president of Kiva. "Bringing more people into the economic mainstream ultimately brings them more customers." But with the coming of age also come pitfalls, as Kiva and others have found. A New York Times story last month ... about the seemingly usurious rates of interest some lenders were charging created a stir in the microfinance community.
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A Peruvian widow borrowed $64 and bought a few pigs. For $55, a villager in Ghana went into the mineral-water trade. A mother of nine in Guatemala upgraded her grocery store with $250. These women from three continents have something in common: They are beneficiaries of microcredit - very small loans to very poor people for very small businesses. The benefactors, in many cases, are ordinary individuals inspired by a movement that is reshaping philanthropy. More and more of us are becoming convinced that lending even tiny amounts of money to destitute people in the developing world can transform lives - theirs and ours. "My life has changed because of this loan," said 27-year-old Patience Asare-Boateng, in a phone interview from Ghana. "This is something that people want: a sense of connection and a sense of community," said Bob Graham, founder of NamasteDirect, a microcredit organization in San Francisco. "Because it's decreasing in our daily lives." The microcredit approach carved out in Bangladesh three decades ago by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus has inspired a war on poverty that blends social conscience and business savvy - especially in Northern California. Although Yunus, widely regarded as the father of the modern microcredit movement, made his first loan in 1976 and established Grameen Bank - lending to the poorest of the poor - 24 years ago, microlending only recently started seeping into public consciousness.
Note: For more inspiring information on the microcredit movement founded by Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, click here.
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