Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus , born onin Chittagong in Bangladesh , is an economist and entrepreneur Bangladeshi known for having founded in 1976 the first institution of microfinance , the Grameen Bank , which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He is known as the “banker to the poor » 1 .

Childhood and family

Born into a relatively poor family 2 , the third child of a family of fourteen, five of whom died in infancy 3 , Muhammad Yunus was born on 28 June 1940 in the village of Bathua, Hathazari, Chittagong District , Bangladesh. . He spent the first years in his native village and his family settled in 1947 in Chittagong, the second largest city in Bangladesh , where his father, Hazi Dula Mia Shoudagar, runs a jewelry store. In his autobiography, Yunus presents his father as a pious Muslim, anxious to lead a sober existence at the material level. He also emphasizes the openness of his parents towards the Western world.

Yunus first married in the United States in 1971, with Vera Forostenko, a young American of Russian descent, whom he met at Vanderbilt University 4 . They had a daughter in 1977, Monica Yunus, who is in New York soprano 5 . He divorced and remarried in 1980 with Afrozi Yunus, a physics professor from Jahangirnagar University, with whom he had his second daughter, Dina Yunus.


Yunus studied first years in his home village school and then at Lamabazar Elementary School and Chittagong Collegiate School. Yunus makes his first trip at the age of thirteen thanks to boyscouts . He travels to West Pakistan for a national boyscouts meeting, the National Boy Scout Jamboree . At an international gathering, the 1955 World Scout Jamboree, which is being held in Canada, he is taking the opportunity to visit Europe and the Middle East . This is how the young man travels to India , North America , Europe, travels to Japan and the Philippineson the occasion of these great international gatherings.

In 1957, he enrolled in economics at the University of Dhaka and obtained his degree in 1960 and his master’s degree the following year. After graduation, he became a professor of economics at Chittagong College . At age 21, he became an entrepreneur, setting up the first high-tech packaging and printing plant in East Pakistan. The case is a success. State Bank Industrial Bank offers Yunus a very large loan ( Tk 10 million ) but in 1965 Yunus prefers to give up the management to his younger brothers to go on to prepare a doctorate in the United States , thanks to a Fulbright scholarship . After a master’s degreeUniversity of Colorado , Yunus is a PhD student at Vanderbilt University , under the direction of controversial Romanian economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen , who is known today for his research on the theme of ” sustainable decline “. Once a doctor in economics, Yunus gets a job at Middle Tennessee State University.

The independence of Bangladesh [ change | change the code ]

In 1971, Bangladesh’s liberation war broke out. Yunus decides to support the separatists. He participates in several local pro-independence groups by raising funds and campaigning in the media. It also publishes a newspaper named Bangladesh Newsletter 6 . Along with other Bangladeshi residents in the United States, he created the Bangladesh Citizen’s Committee. Then they create the information center on Bangladesh in New York. Subsequently, Yunus helps Bangladeshi officers working at the Embassy of Pakistan in the United States to escape from the embassy. He was also an active member of the Bangladesh Defense League created by Fazlur Khan in order to send arms and ammunition to the “Mukti Bahini” (freedom fighters) 7. Finally, when Bangladesh’s independence was proclaimed in December 1971, he decided to leave his post of university professor and returned home in June 1972, to put his skills at the service of his “new” country.

The Grameen Bank

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank.

After holding the position of Deputy Director in the Planning Commission of the Government, where he feels totally useless, he became head of the economics department of Chittagong University  (in) , built in rural areas. In his own words, “a terrible famine struck the country, and I was dizzy to see that all the theories I taught did not prevent people from dying around me” 8 . He decides to take an interest in the miserable lifestyle of villagers living near the university.

With students, he creates a group of “action research”, whose first work will focus on agronomic issues (implantation of new rice species, in particular). It is only later that Yunus comes to believe that many of the problems faced by the poor farmers of Jobra (the neighboring village of Chittagong University) are due to their difficulties in accessing capital. . Their lands are usually so small that they can not be a guarantee for the banks. The usurers remainlocal banks, whose loans are offered at interest rates (more than 20% per month), which often ends up rushing borrowers into poverty. Thus the young professor of economics comes to offer a first “micro-loan” (a few dollars) to a few dozen people in the village, using his own money. The effect of these loans to the derisory amount is quickly very positive on the material situation of the beneficiaries. In addition, they repay their lender without difficulty.

After trying to involve a commercial bank in launching a first microcredit program , Yunus decides to create his own program. It is officially established in 1977 , under the name of ” Grameen ” ( grameen means village). It is an immediate success, in Bangladesh first, where the “Grameen” will obtain the status of banking institution in 1983 , then in other countries where the “model” is exported from 1989. In 2009, nearly 130 million people around the world benefited directly or not from micro-credits. The Grameen bank has also considerably diversified its activities since (textile industry, telephony, solar power generation, etc.).

The philosophy of supporting the informal economy through the success of the Grameen Bank could be reduced to this conviction mentioned in an interview with the newspaper Le MondeApril 25, 2008: “Everyone hopes to make money doing business. But man can do so much else by doing business. Why can not we give ourselves social, ecological and humanistic goals? That’s what we did. The central problem of “one-dimensional” capitalism is that it leaves room for only one way: to make immediate profits. Why do we not integrate the social dimension into economic theory? Why not build companies with the objective of paying decently for their employees and improving the social situation rather than looking for leaders and shareholders to make profits? ”

In early 2011, Mr. Yunus is concerned by a series of attacks from the Bangladeshi government. He was appearing in court after a complaint was filed by the Municipality of Dhaka stating that the Shakti Doi yogurt produced by Grameen Danone Foods is not good for health. He was appearing in court after a defamation suit against him in 2007 for remarks about politics in Bangladesh. It is also subject to a government-requested investigation into financial practices in the Grameen Bank, which, according to a Norwegian television program issued in December 2010 9 , allegedly diverted between 1996 and 1998 nearly $ 100 million worth of money. aid received, for the benefit of another company, Grameen Kalyan, not related to microcredit 10 . In December 2010, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accuses the Nobel Prize winner of treating the Grameen Bank as his personal property and claims that the bank “sucks the blood of the poor” .

In February 2011, more than 50 charities and many public figures, including James Wolfensohn , Jagdish Sharan Verma and Yearday Smith, come to the rescue of Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, whom they believe are victims of a misinformation campaign 11 , 12 . Theit was excluded with immediate effect from Grameen Bank 13 .

Nobel Prizes and other awards

Yunus has received numerous awards 14 , 15 , including Bangladesh’s largest distinction, the Independence Day Award and the Nobel Peace Prize . Mohammad Yunus had the rare privilege of being nominated for both the Nobel Prize for Economics and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 16 before finally, together with Grameen Bank, won the Nobel Peace Prize. on 13 October 2006 for “their efforts to promote economic and social development from below” 17. Yunus said he will use the € 1.1 million reward by opening an ophthalmic hospital, a water treatment plant and financing an agribusiness company in partnership with Danone . This will be implemented with the creation of a joint venture , Grameen Danone Foods , based on a model of social entrepreneurship or ” social business “.

Yunus has also received many honorary titles 14 , 15 . He received the title of doctor honoris causa from the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) 18 on February 2, 2003, from HEC Paris on October 12, 2005 19 and from the University of Mons on 20 .

In 2007, he was part of the Global Elders group , created by Nelson Mandela to promote peace and human rights in the world. He is also an honorary member of the Club of Budapest , which he received in 1997 the Consciousness Planetary Price 21 .

Muhammad Yunus is also a member of the Honorary Committee of the Fondation Chirac 22 , launched in 2008 by former French President Jacques Chirac to act for peace in the world.

In September 2017, he is among the signatories of the letter “The Rohingya crisis worsens dramatically”, in which the UN Security Council is called to intervene to stop the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Arakan, in Burma 23 .


  • 1978: Prize of the President of the Republic, Bangladesh
  • 1984: Ramon Magsaysay Award, Philippines
  • 1985: Bangladesh Bank of Bangladesh Award
  • 1985: Shwadhinota Dibosh Puroshkar (Independence Anniversary Award), Bangladesh
  • 1989: Aga Khan Prize in Architecture, Switzerland
  • 1993: Mohamed Shabdeen Prize for Science, Socio-Economic, Sri Lanka
  • 1993 CARE Humanitarian Award
  • 1994: World Food Prize , United States
  • 1995: Max Schmidheiny Freedom Price
  • 1996: Simon Bolivar Prize, Venezuela
  • 1997: price of the man of peace, Italy
  • 1998: Princess of Asturias of the Concorde Award, Spain
  • 1998: Ozaki (Gakudo) Award, Japan
  • 1998: Indira Gandhi Award, India
  • 1998: Peace Award from Sydney, Australia
  • 1999: Rotary Award for World Understanding, USA
  • 1999: Golden Pegasus Award, Italy
  • 1999: Roma Award for Peace and Humanitarian Action, Italy
  • 2000: King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Award, Jordan
  • 2001: prize for international cooperation of Caja de Granada, Spain
  • 2001: Award for International Assistance “NAVARRA”, Spain
  • 2001: Grand Prize of the Asian Culture Prize of Fukuoka City, Japan
  • 2002: Mahatma Gandhi Award, United States
  • 2003: Volvo Environmental Prize, Sweden
  • 2004: price of the city of Orvieto, Italy
  • 2004: price of Nikkei Asia, Japan
  • 2004: Economist’s Award for Social and Economic Innovation, United States

Honorary doctorates

  • 1992: University of East Anglia , United Kingdom
  • 1993: Oberlin College , United States of America
  • 1995: University of Toronto , Canada
  • 1996: Haverford College, United States of America
  • 1996: University of Warwick , United Kingdom
  • 1997: Saint Xaviers University, United States of America
  • 1998: University of the South, United States of America
  • 1998: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven , Belgium
  • 1998: Yale University , United States of America
  • 1998: Brigham Young University , United States of America
  • 1998: University of Sydney , Australia
  • 2000: Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
  • 2000: University of Turin , Italy
  • 2002: Colgate University, Hamilton, United States of America
  • 2003: Catholic University of Louvain , Belgium
  • 2003: Universitad Nacional De Cuyo, Argentina
  • 2003: University of Natal , South Africa
  • 2004: Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswayvidyalaya, India
  • 2004: Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand
  • 2004: University of Florence , Italy
  • 2004: University of Bologna , Italy
  • 2004: Complutense University of Madrid , Spain

Reviews [ change | change the code ]

An article from the Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt (CADTM) accuses the company of Muhammad Yunus ambiguous practices and even cynicism 24 .


An international film fiction based on his adventure is being produced. Initially French ( Christian de Boisredon ), it is a production between France and the United Kingdom. Other film projects on Yunus and Grameen exist including an Italian project.


  • In ) David Bornstein, The Price of a Dream , Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1997, 342 pages.
  • In ) Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor , New York, Public Affairs, 2003. 258 pages.
  • In ) Muhammad Yunus, A World Without Poverty , Public Affairs, 2008
  • in ) Muhammad Yunus, Bertrand Moingeon , Laurence Lehmann-Ortega, “Building Social Business Models: Lessons from the Grameen Experience”  [ archive ] , April-June, Vol 43, No. 2-3, Long Range Planning, 2010, p .308-325 “
  • In ) Muhammad Yunus, Karl Weber, Building Social Business , Public Affairs, 2010
  • En ) Portraits of microentrepreneurs , with Jacques Attali , Ed. Le Cherche midi – 2006, ( ISBN  978-2-7491-0669-4 )
  • En ) Towards a world without poverty , with Alan Jolis , Ed. J.-C. Lattès – 1997, ( ISBN  978-2-253-12206-7 )
  • En ) Towards a new capitalism , Ed. J.-C. Lattès, 2008, ( ISBN  978-2-7096-2914-0 )
  • En ) Manifesto for a more humane economy , Ed. J.-C. Lattès, 2011, ( ISBN  978-2-7096-3550-9 )
  • En ) Mehedi Hasan, Emmanuel Raufflet, Yves-Marie Abraham, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank: The Discovery and Expansion of Microcredit , Case Center, HEC Montreal, 2006, 15 pages.
  • En ) Towards a Three Zero Economy , Ed. J.-C. Lattès, 2017 ( ISBN  978-2-7096-6152-2 )

Notes and references

  • In ) This article is partially or entirely from the article in English entitled ” Muhammad Yunus ” ( see the list of authors ) .
  1. ↑ ” Banker of the poor  [ archive ] “, Le Monde diplomatique , October 16, 2006
  2. ↑ David Bornstein, The Price of a Dream , University of Chicago, 1997, p. 64 cited in Mehedi Hasan et al., Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank: the discovery and expansion of microcredit , HEC Montréal
  3. ↑ La Libre [ archive ] , Nobel Yunus, the banker of the poor, 13 October 2006
  4. ↑ Muhammad Yunus from Fulbright Scholar to Banker of the World’s Poor  [ archive ]
  5. ↑  [ archive ]
  6. ↑ [ Hasan et al., Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank: the discovery and expansion of microcredit? HEC Montréal]
  7. ↑ Interview with Muhammad Yunus in Bengali  [ archive ]
  8. ↑ Quoted in Le Monde on Sunday 15 – Monday, October 16, 2006, p. 4
  9. ↑  [ archive ]
  10. ↑,2571.html  [ archive ]
  11. ↑  [ archive ]
  12. ↑  [ archive ]
  13. ↑ AFP, ” The Nobel Prize Yunus sacked from his bank ”  [ archive ] , Le Figaro , (accessed March 2, 2011 ) .
  14. ↑ a and b [1]  [ archive ]
  15. ↑ a and b List of awards on the Grameen official website  [ archive ]
  16. ↑ The Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel “lender of hope”  [ archive ]
  17. ↑ Official website of the Nobel Peace Prize  [ archive ]
  18. ↑ Catholic University of Louvain (UCL)  [ archive ]
  19. ↑ HEC , ” Yunus Muhammad ”  [ archive ] (accessed 20 September 2015 )
  20. ↑  [ archive ] Site of the University of Mons
  21. ↑ Award of the Planetary Consciousness Award [ archive ]
  22. ↑ Honorary Committee of the Fondation Chirac  [ archive ]
  23. ↑ 12 Nobel Prize winners call for an end to violence against the Rohingya. News-front, 14.09.2017  [ archive ]
  24. ↑ Muhammad Yunus: Nobel ambiguity or cynicism?  [ archive ]

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