I am the CEO and Chairman of Emerald Group, a diversified investment group that capitalizes on opportunities across several sectors.
Many people have inspired me over the years, including business leaders and philanthropists. One of the most inspiring is microfinancing pioneer, Muhammad Yunus. Much of my work focuses on ensuring financial services are available to everyone across Africa and other parts of the world – areas with a vast number of the unbanked.
Professor Muhammad Yunus is particularly inspirational thanks to his development of microfinancing and how this helps people in developing countries access funding and a financial sector that was previously unavailable to them.
Who is Muhammad Yunus?
Muhammad Yunus was born in Bangladesh in 1940. He is a leading economist, banker and civil society leader whose main contribution for the betterment of mankind likes in his pioneering and development of the concepts of microfinance and microcredit.
This was so world-changing that Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the foundation of the Grameen Bank in 1976. Grameen is a community development bank that makes small loans (microcredit) to people with little or no resources with no need for collateral.
Professor Yunus founded the bank in his native Bangladesh following the success of his research project at the University of Chittagon. This project determined how best to design a system of finance, credit delivery and other financial services to the rural population.
Grameen was officially authorised by national legislation to operate as an independent bank in 1983. Since the it has gone from strength to strength, with more than 8.4 million borrowers by 2011. Almost 97% of those borrowers were women, previously locked out of any kind of financial assistance.
Empowering people in developing countries to take control
Professor Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 along with the bank he founded for their “efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below.” He has also received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 from President Obama, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
In 2011, he co-founded the impact investment fund Yunus Social Business (YSB), which is headquartered in Berlin. Its mission is to take the social business model he pioneered at the Yunus Centre in Bangledesh and take it to many more countries throughout the developing world.
His goal, through YSB, is to form and develop self-sustaining companies that focus on the reduction of poverty. The fund has supported more than 2,000 social business entrepreneurs, positively impacted the lives of more than 13 million people, and created more than 74,000 higher incomes.
Yunus is unafraid to state his mission clearly, which is to harness and utilise business to put an end to global poverty. This is a big ambition, but he is achieving it step by step. By funding social enterprises through impact investment throughout the developing world, sustainable changes can be made.
Business leaders who are making a difference today understand what must be done. They work to create that which is missing. And through impact investment, they can develop innovative solutions facing all of us so that everyone, no matter where they live, can get access to healthcare and clean air.
Eliminating poverty and reducing the unbanked are major priorities
There is nothing more important facing the world today than eliminating poverty and creating a sustainable future. At Emerald Group, we know this and every decision we make is geared towards a overarching focus on improving the future for all. Our specific aim is to ensure that the millions of unbanked across Africa have access to financial services in a fair and accessible way.
He was also a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP) until it was dissolved in 2017. We focus on Africa and improving the life of its people through impact investment and social change, and the APP was a non-profit dedicated to the same.
Chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the APP had members including Michel Camdessus from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Governor of the Bank of Botswana Oluesgun Obasanjo and many more.
In this, my goals are similar to those of Yunus, and his example of utilising the power of the corporate sector and using it for positive change is hugely inspiring.
Yunus has a vision of humane capitalism, and it’s one I and all at Emerald Group share.