Banking for the Unbanked: Microfinance Pioneer Yunus Wants US License
Microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in alleviating poverty, said Wednesday he is seeking a license to open credit unions in the United States.
Yunus, who opened Grameen America bank in New York a year ago, said he was seeking a US credit union license so Grameen "can work in any state."
Yunus, speaking at a forum in Washington to promote his latest book, "Creating a World Without Poverty," said he had met earlier in the day with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.
The Bangladeshi economist said they had discussed microfinance, which extends small amounts of credit to the poor so they can start businesses, and the US government's bailout plan aimed at averting collapse of the world's biggest economy.
Yunus said he told the Fed chief that the bailout “should have some section left for the people at the bottom."
"The real victim of the financial crisis is not the rich people," but "the people at the bottom, globally, three billion people," he said in a speech at International Monetary Fund headquarters.
Yunus recalled he had met Bernanke once before, in October 2007, and the Fed chief had been "very supportive" of Grameen Bank, the microfinance bank he started in Bangladesh in 1983.
The economist and Grameen Bank shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Yunus opened Grameen America, whose slogan is "Banking for the Unbanked," in New York City in January 2008.
He said it has approximately 500 clients, all women, who on average have borrowed 2,200 dollars without providing collateral or a guarantee.
Nearly all, 99.6 percent, make their weekly repayments, he added.
Yunus said that Grameen America operates under the same model as Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.
According to the Grameen America website, it wants to open branches in five US states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana and Nebraska.
Grameen America said its principal source of revenue is the interest paid by borrowers on their loans and that eventually it wanted to establish itself as a bank or credit union "with the ability to accept savings and banking deposits."AFP