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Professor Muhammad Yunus

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2006 & Founder, Grameen Bank


Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus is the father of microcredit and social business, and the founder of Grameen Bank and more than 50 other companies in Bangladesh. For his constant innovation and enterprise, in March 2012 Fortune named Yunus “one of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time.”

Yunus was born in Bangladesh in 1940. In 1965, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study Economics at Vanderbilt University and received his PhD in Economics in 1969.

Yunus returned to Bangladesh in 1972 and joined the Department of Economics, University of Chittagong, as its Chairman. In 1976, he started to experiment with providing collateral free loans to the poor. The project was called Grameen Bank Project and later, in 1983, became a full-fledged bank for providing loans to the poor, mostly women, in rural Bangladesh. Today, Grameen Bank has over 8.4 million borrowers, 97 per cent of whom are women, and it disburses over USD 1.5 billion each year. In 2006, Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The concept of social business, which Yunus introduced into the economic framework, is defined as a non-dividend company dedicated to solving social problems, such as healthcare, education, sanitation, water pollution, unemployment, environmental degradation, etc. His microcredit idea has spread to almost all the countries of the world, including the industrialised countries of the West.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Yunus to serve as an MDG Advocate. He sits on the Board of the United Nations Foundation, Schwab Foundation, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Grameen Credit Agricole Microcredit Foundation and Chirac Foundation. He is one of the founding members of The Elders and serves as Nobel Laureate in Residence at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia).

Yunus is one of only seven individuals to have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom and the United States Congressional Gold Medal. Other notable awards include the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1984), World Food Prize (1994), International Simón Bolívar Prize (1996), Sydney Peace Prize (1998), The Prince of Asturias Award for Concord (1998) and Seoul Peace Prize (2006). He is the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees from universities across 20 countries. He has received 112 awards from 26 countries, including state honours from 10 countries.

Yunus was chosen by the Wharton School of Business as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years.” AsiaWeek (Hong Kong) selected him as one of “Twenty Great Asians (1975 – 1995).” Anandabazaar Patrika (India) selected Yunus as one of “Ten Great Bengalis of the Century (1900 – 1999).”

In 2006, Time included Yunus in "60 Years of Asian Heroes" as one of the top-12 business leaders. In 2008, in an open online poll, Yunus was voted the second-topmost intellectual person in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (United States). In 2010, The New Statesman (UK) listed him as one of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures.”

Yunus has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, Hardtalk on BBC and The Simpsons. He has appeared on the cover of Time and Newsweek.

In June 2012, Yunus was named Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University.


The speakers

Using the unique power of sport to bring people together, the Olympism in Action Forum sees a range of global players, including Olympic Movement stakeholders, athletes, private and public sector leaders, NGO representatives, academics, artists and the media come together to talk on topical contemporary issues. Chosen because of their ability to effect change and their wide range of sometimes differing opinions, the speakers will lead lively debates and seek to challenge received wisdom to inspire new ways of thinking.

Meet the speakers.
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