My hero is Muhammad Yunus
Lately I have been meeting with Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate economist from Bangladesh who I first met years ago at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The reason for this is that there is a Muhammad Yunus International Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship Center that has opened at Okan University.
This center, which has been established at only seven universities around the world, is in one way Yunus’ pupil of the eye.
I met Professor Yunus, who lectures students of the center at Okan University, in a meeting recently in Istanbul where Professor Aziz Akgül, head of Turkish Foundation for Waste Reduction (TİVA) also participated.
Akgül is a person who has been successfully practicing the concept of “micro-credit” in Turkey for years. The concept was discovered by Professor Yunus.
The corporation co-hosting the meeting with TİVA is Turkcell, Turkey’s leading mobile phone operator, which is sponsoring the “Women Power to the Economy” campaign.
The significance of the campaign can be understood from the figure I will cite below.
According to TUİK data, only 7 million of the total 37-million-large female populations in Turkey are working women.
One out of five women in Turkey is on the verge of poverty. Moreover, this ratio climbs up to 30 percent among illiterate women or those who have not completed any school.
I’m afraid; the campaign launched by mobile operator Turkcell through mobile phones, even if there were similar 20 campaigns launched, will not be able to make women visible in the economy.
According to Professor Yunus, the capitalist system continuously generates unemployment and consequently also poverty.
The economist from Bangladesh believes that at places where the capitals system fails “social business” creates miracles.
“Social business” as you can imagine is the new favorite of the creator of micro credit.
Investments to answer social issues that are definitely non-profit are the fundamentals of “social business.”
The Grameen-Danone” company, which Professor Yunus formed in partnership with the famous French food brand DANONE, with the $1.3 million he won from his Nobel Peace Prize, is one of the best examples of social business.
Just as the “Grameen-Danone” company which produces vitamin reinforced yogurts for the poor Bangladeshi children to be better fed, there is also the “Grameen-Adidas” company that is producing shoes for prices as low as $1 or $2 for children without shoes.
Yunus explained that these types of examples are increasing and that multinational companies are constantly contacting him for “social business.”
German chemical company BASF, American Intel, French electric company Schneider, Japan textiles Uniqlo, again Japan restaurant chain Watami are those companies who have stepped into “social business” in Bangladesh together with Yunus.
It is possible to count about 60 mid-size and big companies that currently invest in such non-profit business in Bangladesh.
“The reason I am attending the Davos World Economic Forum every year is to meet and talk to these multinational companies,” Yunus said.
As far as I can understand, the “social business” that Professor Akgül wants to carry to Turkey is working like clockwork in Bangladesh.
His eyes were sparkling when Yunus was explaining how Watami restaurants were to provide “healthy, clean and cheap food” to poor Bangladeshis.
He is also about to sign a deal with an electric car company, but he has not yet named them. He is focusing not on electric cars but on their batteries. “We will take these batteries and use them in solar energy systems. Also, it will be possible to move the batteries from one place to the other,” he said.
After this recent conversation between me and Yunus in Istanbul I guess I was sure once more that Yunus is my male hero. One who sets an example to other countries with new concepts and projects to improve the lives of Bangladeshis.
I insist on the gender because I have to admit that most of my heroes are female.