To make our world better with lessons from Bangladesh

by Taehwan Eom, University student

According to the recent version of the United Nations Handbook on the Least Developed Country Category, there are 49 “least developed” countries in the World. Also, the economically bottom 20 percent of the world population live on less than $1 a day.

 Last summer, I was in Bangladesh, a widely poor country, to do an internship at Grameen Bank, a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, as a micro-finance/social entrepreneurship. Grameen Bank provides loans to less fortunate people who do not have a house and could not borrow from commercial banks because of poor credit.

Among the innovative loans with 96 percent recovery rates, there are two interesting loans. One is called the “struggling members loan,” a loan only homeless and disabled people could obtain, allowing them to borrow a small amount of money without interest or due date. The purpose of this loan is to motivate people to do small jobs, such as selling the vegetables in a flea market, instead of begging. The other loan is called the “education loan,” which is for the children of borrowers. The interest rate of this loan is also zero until the student finishes their study, and after graduation, the interest rate will be low, around 5 percent. Currently, over 80,000 struggling citizens and over 50,000 students have taken these loans out from the bank.

 As a senior  from South Korea and majoring in economics with a quantitative emphasis here at the University of Minnesota, I saw a big step to the prosperity of such poor countries. Although poor countries have numerous obstacles, such as corruption, political instability, weak social infrastructure and bad education, social entrepreneurships help less fortunate people to overcome the poverty substantially, not just political action in the conference room. I would encourage a social entrepreneurship to fight poverty locally or wherever we find similar economic situations and encourage people to think about ending poverty in this manner.