The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and micro-credit promoter in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus, on Tuesday 12 March in Tunis urged the African Development Bank (AfDB) to provide support to social business given its consequential impact on poverty reduction. Yunus was speaking before members of senior management of the AfDB during a meeting organized by the Office of the Chief Economist of the institution.
Following a brief introduction on the background on social business and the Grameen Bank (Bank for the poor) that he created, the economist and Nobel Peace laureate explained the object and philosophy behind his initiative called ‘Yunus Social Business’.
Capitalism with a human face
In his words, the aim is to come to the aid and assistance of the poor by improving their conditions of living and help them fend for themselves. This approach is more or less philanthropical with the sole difference that it has nothing to do with giving. But but to lend a hand to these poor populations, investing in the social sectors or setting up business ventures, the ultimate objective of which is not profit making as done in ordinary capitalistic business enterprises.
This initiative, says Yunus, is his contribution to the high levels of poverty that prevailed in his country Bangladesh, during the 1970s when he completed his studies in economics in the United States. This is capitalism with a human face made of humanitarian motives and the dividends are reinvested into the initial commercial channel.
A venture of significant impact
The impact of micro-credit and of Grameen Bank and their social approach is immense, says Yunus. In Bangladesh, the latter is tangible as it has helped to increase considerably socio-economic indicators with regard to women and children. A high proportion of women have in this way attained social and financial autonomy. This has made it possible to provide better health care for their children and higher education through scholarship training programs.
Furthermore, through development projects, solar energy panels and drinking water points have been installed as is the case with the reduction of mortality rates due to malaria with the use of mosquito nets.
This remarkable impact on these populations is a demonstration of the success of social business. Thus the need to urge institutions like the AfDB to invest in this enterprise. He congratulated the AfDB for launching its social business pilot program in Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.
For the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the success of his initiative is also due to the simplicity of the system, free from red-tape, middle-men and law agents, etc. "Confidence is the essence of social business", he repeated.
With regard to certain skeptic remarks particularly concerning the ‘humanitarian’ nature of the initiative, Yunus says that to be able to judge social business "one must accept to change glasses and appreciate things from a different perspective".