The Economic Fruits of a 'Microcredit' Laureate For years, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus has helped the poor people of Bangladesh by giving them "microcredit" to start businesses. One such enterprise is a cell phone company that provides service and equipment to 260,000 village "phone ladies" across the nation.
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The Economic Fruits of a 'Microcredit' Laureate

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The Economic Fruits of a 'Microcredit' Laureate

The Economic Fruits of a 'Microcredit' Laureate

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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An economist from Bangladesh, Mohammad Yunus, and the bank that he founded - the Grameen Bank - won the Nobel Peace Prize today. Mr. Yunus has said that his goal is to end world poverty, and he has changed the lives of millions of people already.

Here's Mr. Yunus reacting to the news.

(Soundbite of a crowd)

Mr. MOHAMMAD YUNUS (Grameen Bank): It's very exciting news. It's a fantastic news. We're all very excited about the good news. It excites everybody in Bangladesh, big recognition for all of us who have been working behind it for so long.

CHADWICK: The customers for Grameen Bank are impoverished Bangladeshi women, almost all of them. They use the money to start small businesses. This bank is now so successful it has divisions, like other banks, to manage its loans.

And joining us now is Yamin Bakht. He's general manager of the division that's called Grameen Phone. He's speaking with us from the capital of Bangladesh.

First of all, congratulations to you. And this Grameen Phone, what you do is you lend people money so that they can buy cell phones and operate kind of little cell phone services in villages all around Bangladesh. There are now 260,000 of your customers in 50,000 villages.

Tell me, how does this make a difference in the lives of people there?

Mr. YAMIN BAKHT (Grameen Bank): Alex, it makes a difference in two different ways. It provides universal access to people who don't - never had telephone services before. And on the other hand it provides a good income-earning opportunity to the village phone ladies.

CHADWICK: The women who take the loans to buy the phones, they actually - these become businesses, because they rent the phones out to other people.

Mr. BAKHT: What the women do is they use the mobile phone as a payphone and they retail the services among their fellow villagers, who use the phone when they need it. And on the other hand, the village lady makes some money out of this retailing.

CHADWICK: These are all agricultural villages. People are all farmers out there. When you have a telephone, you can use that phone to call the central market and find out what the price of grain is actually getting that day in the markets. So you're not so much at the mercy of the traders and the in-between guys, who once would have made all the money.

Mr. BAKHT: Absolutely correct, Alex. I mean, this - say, for example, a farmer could call the markets in the cities to find out the price of rice in a particular day. And then they can - that enables them to bargain in a better way with the middlemen and get a better price for their produce. And also, there are a lot of other uses for the phones. People in rural areas can call the doctors in the cities and make appointments before they come here. Several million Bangladeshis are working abroad, and most of them come from rural areas, so they can also contact their relatives in the villages. So there are many uses of the mobile phones in villages.

CHADWICK: When you first went to work for Mohammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank, when you heard him say, my goal is to end world poverty, did you think to yourself, this guy has got to be crazy?

Mr. BAKHT: Yeah, that's true. He was trying to provide credit to people who were not credit-worthy in the normal banking terms, people without collateral and mostly women borrowers. And we all know he has proven to be right, and his ladies have excellent track records of repaying their loans; it's more than 98 or 99 percent. And their standard of living has improved tremendously because of this.

CHADWICK: Yamin Bakht, general manager of Grameen Phone. That's a division of the Grameen Bank, which today along with its founder, Mohammad Yunus, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yamin, thank you and good luck.

Mr. BAKHT: Thank you very much, Alex.

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