How are microcredits doing in Turkey?
In Davos this year, I found the opportunity to listen to, once more, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus, the inventor of microcredits and the founder of Grameen Bank.
I was at his “Regions in Transformation: South Asia” session. He said the banking system was created to serve the rich not the poor. He said we needed to create a banking system for the poor because many people do not have access to the banking system, we know that the system does not cover them and the entire finance system should be reviewed.
Prof. Yunus’ opinions are extremely important at a time when income inequality in the world and the gap between the rich and the poor is being questioned more than ever.
The other day I received a piece of mail from Prof. Aziz Akgül, head of the Turkey Grameen Microfinance Program, reminding me once more of Yunus.
According to Prof. Akgül, the Grameen Microfinance Program, which gives women microcredits, issued 500 million Turkish Liras worth of loans between the years 2003 and 2015. The return rate of this amount was almost 100 percent. This means that women are better debtors than men.
Prof. Akgül said 110 microcredit branches in 67 provinces had reached 150,000 women since 2003 and had given loans to 44,000 women. Even illiterate women are able to ask for loans ranging from 600 liras to 10,000 liras.
“Those who ask for big loans are not much. I know that among the 44,000 women, 80 percent of them are doing good business,” Akgül said.
The Turkey Grameen Microfinance Program is supported by nearly 30 major holdings including Özyeğin, Tekfen and Limak, as well as Citibank.
It was only last week when the 8th “Citibank Micro Entrepreneur” competition was held, Akgül reminded. I asked about the situation in southeastern Diyarbakır, where 20,000 people have lost their jobs because of intense fighting, because Akgül had actually launched the Grameen Bank model for the first time in Diyarbakır in 2003. The model then spread from Diyarbakır to other provinces.
Akgül said currently 11,000 women were using credits in Diyarbakır and that except for the Sur neighborhood, where clashes are ongoing, there was not too many problems.
Because financing was not adequate, they were not able to meet the demands of microfinances of 16,000 women nationwide.
Women who venture in entrepreneurship predominantly produce in the fields of handicrafts and home dishes. Their second preferences are commerce.
More precisely, the rate of those women who produce is 38.4 percent, while those who do commercial activities total 30.8 percent and those who own a workplace is 20 percent.
Agricultural and animal husbandry rates are quiet low, thus urban segments demand more microcredits than rural segments.
Prof. Yunus had said microcredits revealed the creative power in people. He said, “We are supporting creative ideas. Millions of microcredit entrepreneurs increase our hopes. We are creating an ecosystem where women and children who are using microcredits could also be affected.”