Professor Muhammad Yunus was born on June 28, 1940, the third of 14 children, in Chittagong, Bangladesh. His father, a successful goldsmith, encouraged him to pursue higher education. After graduating from Dhaka University in Bangladesh, Professor Yunus received a Fulbright Scholarship to study Economics at Vanderbilt University in the United States, where he received a Ph.D. in 1971. While in the U.S., he also taught Economics at Middle Tennessee University. He returned to Bangladesh upon its independence in 1972 to serve as the Head of the Economics Department at the University of Chittagong.
1976 was a time of great challenges and hardship as the newly independent Bangladesh struggled to recover from a bitter war. With the economy in ruins, abject poverty was widespread – particularly in the areas around Chittagong. In this desperate environment, the young academic decided to implement an idea: to give the rural poor an alternative to the loan sharks that prey on desperately poor women. Following the success of an initial local experiment, Professor Yunus became confident that the model could work on a broader scale and went to set up microcredit projects in other parts of the country. Within seven years, the initiative took formal shape as the Grameen Bank in 1983.
Today, Grameen Bank has over 8.4 million members – 97 per cent of whom are female – and has lent over US$12.5 billion since its inception. In 2006, the Norwegian Nobel Committee jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Peace to Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.”
Since 2006 Professor Yunus has focused on spreading and implementing the concept of Social Business – a business model that aims to solve social problems while staying financially self-sustainable. To date, there are more than 50 Social Businesses in operation in Bangladesh alone – some are the largest companies in the region. Professor Yunus currently chairs the Yunus Centre, a one-stop resource centre for all Grameen Social Business-related activities in Bangladesh and around the world. He has written three books about micro-lending and Social Business: “Banker to the Poor” (2003), “A World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism” (2008) and “Building Social Business” (2010). Among Professor Yunus’ many awards and honours are the Independence Day Award (Bangladesh, 1987), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (USA, 2009) and the Congressional Gold Medal (USA, 2012). In 2009, Forbes named Professor Yunus one of its “10 Most Influential Business Gurus.”
Muhammad Yunus is married to Afrozi Yunus, a Professor of Physics at Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka.
He has two daughters, Monica and Dina.