Home Insider Social business pioneer Professor Muhammad Yunus visits Myanmar

Social business pioneer Professor Muhammad Yunus visits Myanmar

Nobel Peace Laureate and social business pioneer Professor Mu- hammad Yunus has visited Myan- mar as a guest of the British Council in late July. Professor Yunus’ inaugural visit is seen as an opportunity to emphasise the import- ant role that business can play in support of poverty alleviation in Myanmar.

Addressing a select group of leaders repre- senting both business and civil society at the British Council in Yangon on 20th July, Professor Yunus said “I am very happy that I have been invited to talk about potential of social business in Myanmar. Not only the government, companies and foundations, but also individuals can launch social busi- ness and become involved in addressing a social cause that they care about.”

Pioneering the concept of micro-finance in the late 1970’s, Yunus founded the Grameen bank in 1983. Since then micro-finance has become a powerful tool used to improve lives, combat poverty and empower wom- en across the globe. Professor Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Welcoming Professor Yunus to Myanmar, Kevin Mackenzie, the Director of the British Council highlighted the relevance of Profes- sor Yunus’s ideas to Myanmar as the country proceeds with national reform.

“I am delighted to welcome Professor Yunus. He is a world authority in helping the poor bring about their own development, and his insights could not come at a better time”, says Mr Mackenzie.

Professor Yunus has long been a critic of the capitalist system arguing that it does not al- low the human qualities of compassion and collaboration to be fully expressed.

Responding to Yunus’ keynote address in Yangon, Professor Dr. Aung Tun Thet, the President’s senior economic advisor re- marked that, ‘the visit of Professor Yunus is very important and timely; as a pioneer of social business in Bangladesh, the ideas he has promoted have been spread all over the world. I am hoping that his visit to Myanmar will promote and strengthen the social busi- ness movement in this country.’

Present at the Yangon event were senior fig- ures from the emerging social business sec- tor. Debbie Aung Din, the founder of Prox- imity Designs, one of the most well-known social businesses in Myanmar, highlighted the importance of this landmark visit, re- marking that “Myanmar’s longstanding tra- dition of charity while good, has at the same time been patronizing towards poor people; social businesses treat people as customers with dignity and give them choice. It’s a re- lationship based on equal exchange rather than based on sympathy.”

On day two of his visit to Myanmar, Profes- sor Yunus spoke to a group of senior gov- ernment officials hosted by the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Develop- ment. The Nay Pyi Taw event aims to bring together government officials and parlia- mentarians to explore how to maximise the social benefits of business in Myanmar.

The Chair of the Social Enterprise World Forum and CEO of Social Enterprise UK Pe- ter Holbrook, speaking at the Yangon event, highlighted that ‘‘Myanmar has a bright future and social enterprise presents an op- portunity to ensure that everyone can bene- fit from its economic development.”