2006 – Muhammad Yunus, microcredit

Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi banker and economist known to many as “The Banker to the Poor”. He was previously a Professor of Economics and is famous for his successful application of microcredit – the extension of small loans. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

Yunus is also the founder of Grameen Bank. He is the author of “Banker to the Poor” and a founding board member of Grameen Foundation. The success of the Grameen model of microfinancing has inspired similar efforts in a hundred countries throughout the developing world and even in industrialized nations, including the United States. Many, but not all, microcredit projects also retain its emphasis on lending specifically to women. More than 94% of Grameen loans have gone to women, who suffer disproportionately from poverty and who are more likely than men to devote their earnings to their families.

In early 2007 Yunus showed interest in launching a political party in Bangladesh named Nagorik Shakti (Citizen Power), but later discarded the plan. He is one of the founding members of Global Elders. Yunus also serves on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, a public charity created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support United Nations causes.