The APBC is delighted to welcome Grameen Australia, as a new member.
An Australian not-for-profit entity, its aims are the development of social businesses (including microfinance) as sustainable solutions to alleviating poverty. Working within the Asia Pacific region, particularly in the Philippines, Cambodia and Bangladesh, Grameen Australia follows proudly in the footsteps of Professor Yunus, microfinance pioneer and “Banker to the Poor”. In 1983, he founded Grameen Bank, a community development bank, in Bangladesh.
Professor Yunus, a Fulbright scholar and Professor of Economics at the University of Chittagong, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his achievements in assisting some of the world’s poorest people escape poverty through the provision of microfinance loans, sound financial advice and entrepreneurial education.
Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus
The name “Grameen” in Sanskrit, is derived from the word “village.” The system of the bank is based on the concept of social business and the idea that the poor have skills that are under-utilized, with no chance of using them without capital. Unleashing creativity and initiative in people can help end poverty, and around 95 percent of all loans are extended to women.
Lending to women generates considerable secondary effects; it empowers a marginalized segment of society and improves outcomes for children including better health through regular food intake, education and attendance at school. Default rates on loans have been surprisingly low, around 5%, and repeat business, once loans have been repaid, are very popular as borrowers seek further improvement once they have established a credit rating.
Grameen Australia maintains a close association with Professor Yunus often referred to as the “Father of Microfinance.” An accredited member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), and a signatory to its Code of Conduct, Grameen Australia has been accorded Type 1 deductible gift recipient status (DGR) from the ATO, under the Australian Government’s Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme.
In the Philippines, Grameen Australia has established a social business hub based in Manila, an original, innovative program that has met with great success. It combines microfinance with mentoring and entrepreneurial education, designed to help the very poor in an urban context develop income-producing businesses. Loan recipients undertake comprehensive business training developed in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers and to date 100% of all outstanding loans have registered consistent, on time repayment installments.
The loans exist in a cloud-based IT loan platform, and many borrowers previously without any access to the banking system, for the first time in their lives have received an ATM card.
Grameen Australia has also helped facilitate social business partnerships in the Philippines, creating import and export replacement opportunities. A recent success story includes an export contract between a Manila based social business and an Australian Motel for over 1000 fair trade guest soaps.
In Cambodia, Grameen Australia has established a Chicken Farm and Livestock Training Centre providing the very poor – particularly scavengers from a local garbage site – access to business training and chicken rearing. The Centre raises chickens in a free-range environment and offers training opportunities to local businesses and NGOs. The sale of chickens and eggs provides income towards sustainability, which The Centre aims to achieve in 2016. Plans are also underway to increase organic food production, and boosting stock numbers.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, Grameen Australia’s Executive has played a key role in the development and funding of an Auto Mechanic Training College and Workshop for marginalized youth, which provides Japanese standards of training, best practice skills, hands-on experience in service, repair, panel beating and painting. The Centre allows disadvantaged youth to gain marketable skills and secure sustainable income and job opportunities.
English tuition, a business-training module and management of personal finances, are also provided to prepare students for the workforce. At capacity, the school trains 100 students per year with 200 living on site while they complete a two-year program. The project is structured as a social business with the workshop covering the costs of the school. Local business partners and a Japanese Foundation have provided facilities, assistance and expertise.
Grameen Australia operates effectively with a lean cost structure enabling it to keep projects and interest rates on microfinance loans, as streamlined and as low as possible. It boasts two remarkable CEOs operating as Co-CEOs and working between Australia and SE Asia – Duncan Power and Lopa Mehrotra. Each brings a wealth of experience and unique professional backgrounds, which encompass banking and finance, compliance and corporate governance skills, project management and social entrepreneurship. They strive to develop innovative social business ventures and microfinance initiatives across the region, generating improved economic and social developments from below.
For more information visit www.grameen.org.au
Donations in Australia over $2.00 are fully tax deductible.
NICOLE FORREST GREEN
Chair CSR Sub-committee