Sitting at the airport in Nairobi, having just finished reading Banker to the poor by Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace prize winner in 2006. I selected this book very deliberately as I knew I would be visiting a microfinance bank in Kenya, during my trip to Kenya. I’ve done lots more while in Kenya (visiting tree plantations, partner farmers, the microfinance bank, the headquarters of Better Globe Forestry, as well as doing 24 hours of safari and a short stint at the silver beach of Malindi by the Indian Ocean) but having this book to accompany the visit of the Nguni/Mbuvu financial service association made for an enriched experience. The Better Globe Forestry-funded FSA in Nguni is called a village bank, where ”the locals obtain microfinance loans to improve their living standards and to better their economy”.
”Each person has tremendous potential. She or he alone can influence the lives of others within the communities, nations, within and beyond her or his own time.
Each of us has much more hidden inside us than we have had a chance to explore. Unless we create an environment that enables us to discover the limits of our potential, we will never know what we have inside of us.”
The book was first published in 1998 and a lot has happened since, Yunus himself being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for instance, but even more so, the continued spread of the concept of microfinance loans/banks has truly made a huge difference to the lives of many people across the globe.
Reading Banker to the poor makes me appreciate Yunus himself. He saw something, acted upon it, took notice of the results and their long-term effect, took it to another level – system-wide as well as conceptually – and doggedly kept at it. Did not leave it be, this newfound understanding of his, of the importance of credit. Especially to the poor. Or as he phrases it, to the poorest of the poor even, those without any chance of ever receiving a ”normal loan” from ”a normal bank” as they have absolutely nothing to put in as collateral.
”I also learned that things are never as complicated as we imagine them to be. It is only our arrogance which seeks to find complicated answers to simple problems.”
There’s a phrase I appreciate. Yes lives in the land of No. And boy, did Yunus ever receive his fair number of No’s, that’s for sure. It takes something special to keep on going, upon receiving No upon No upon No. And he did. So I figure, he must have known that Yes lives right there! Because it did. He did get the necessary amount of Yes:es. It took a while, but actually, the impact of Grameen bank (which is what Yunus micro-finance operations was named. Grumman means village.) has been huge. Much bigger than he started off thinking, I would presume. He did not stop when given excuse upon excuse why what he was proposing simply could not be done. It was ”too simple” in the eyes of many. But he – and those he managed to enroll in his vision – kept at it, kept believing and working for keeping it simple.
Is this ”the answer to all that ails the world”? No. But it sure makes a difference, especially to those who are far far away from ever taking a step into a world that, for me, is the normal one. The world where I can get a loan by walking into a bank. Because I do have collateral as safety. And yet – looking at it from a global perspective, what I deem normal, is far from just that, for a majority of people living on earth. Humbling insight, as the entire week-long visit to Kenya has proven to be for me.
”I now focused on the task of unlearning theory, and on learning instead from the real world. I did not have to travel miles to find the real world. It was just outside the doors of the classroom.
It was everywhere except inside the classroom.”
There will be more reflections on Banker to the poor in relation to what I learned while in Kenya in June of 2019. ”From the real world” as it were. A journey of eye-opening insights, as well as a deep appreciation for what I have, along with massive awe at the potential of humans.
The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.