Microfinanceis not, as many believe, the first attempt to provide access to financial services and products to the most disadvantaged populations excluded from the banking system. As often, modernity has its roots in history; in this case the Mont-de-piété, the tontine or the cooperatives. But when Professor Muhammad Yunus carried out his first experiments in the 1980s in the city of Jobra in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, he had no idea that this local credit would boom worldwide. He who wanted to “free the dreams of men and help the poorest of the poor to achieve dignity” would be the father of the first microfinance institution: the Grameen Bank. Its objective was to compensate for the inability of the banking system to support the poor. Forty years later, the experience has become global and the banks have succumbed to the craze.
Major financial innovation, microcredit takes the opposite of traditional banking logic. Loans, dedicated to a professional activity, are granted without requiring any guarantee in return. This daring bet pays off: we see that the poor repay better than traditional bank customers. The risk inherent in the model is often kept under control thanks to the mechanism of joint responsibility which consists in making the beneficiaries of the same group united.
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