DAMMAM: SIRAJ WAHAB
Published — Tuesday 20 November 2012
Last update 20 November 2012 1:56 am
Nobel Prize-winning father of microfinance Muhammad Yunus described today’s youth as the most empowered generation in mankind’s history.
“They have this all-powerful advantage of technology that no generation in the past had,” he said while delivering a lecture at Dammam’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) on Sunday.
“If you combine the fabulous resources that you have here in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states with the creative and imaginative power of the young men and women, it will unleash a new era of progress and prosperity,” he said. “Give these youngsters the space to come up with new business ideas and inventions.”
He advised teachers and professors not to stunt the growth and thinking of their students and young researchers by imposing old and antiquated theories on them.
“Allow them to think freely; give them the space they need to try out and implement their ideas; if at all you need to do something, then please try to facilitate and help them in carrying out their projects.”
Yunus reminded the audience of the power of imagination. “Remember Star Trek television series and films? Long before we discovered and launched all these satellites, we were traveling into space through science fiction, we were imagining things that did not exist then, and today they do,” he said. “So please let these youngsters go wild with imagination. Let them think big. We are nobody to tell them what is doable and what is not.”
Recalling his own experience of launching a microcredit program through his Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, he said: “People would laugh at me. They called me a joker. They would say why should a professor of economics go out and talk to the poor about banking. I was unmoved. I turned the concept of conventional banking on its head. There is always a first time. Just because somebody has not done something in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t it now. We should.”
Explaining the concept of his banking, Yunus said: “In conventional banking, you need a collateral to get a loan. You need to go to their offices. In our system of banking, we go to the poorest of the poor and ask for no collateral because they have none. We build our relationship purely on trust. We know that when we lend that small amount to a poor woman she will repay and she does. She always does.”
According to Yunus, there is nothing wrong with the poor. “It is the system that is to be blamed for not providing them with the opportunity to succeed. There is this young woman who is a doctor. Her mother is illiterate. She is no less than her qualified doctor daughter. Then why did she not become a doctor? And why could her daughter become one? Simply because the mother did not have the opportunity to go a school; society did not provide her with that facility.”
To drive his point home, Yunus narrated the example of a bonsai tree and a shrub. “I call the poor people the ‘bonsai people,’” he said. “The bonsai grows tallest in the forest because it gets the soil it needs to grow. Take a bonsai seed and plant it in an ordinary pot and it will grow only up to a certain height. There is nothing wrong with the seed. The problem is in the soil and the pot — it doesn’t get the soil and the room to grow taller. Similar is the case with the poor, society’s have-nots. They are talented like any of us, but they don’t get the opportunity to succeed. At Grameen Bank, we provided these poor people the opportunity to succeed. And they did in a remarkable way.”
He urged researchers and youngsters at the high-tech university to focus on social business. “Making money and making wealth will always make one happy, but there is greater happiness when you help solve the problems of the poor. I call it super-happiness. Just as science fiction helped invent all this technology, you can write social fiction to help come up with novel solutions to today’s problem,” he said.
Yunus reminded youngsters that each of them is endowed with unlimited capability. “Every single person has a unique ability, unique creative ability, they just need to unleash that creativity for the good of humanity,” he said.