Felix Salmon

When loans beat grants

What’s best: giving a man a fish, teaching a man to fish, or lending a man a fish? Nathan Fiala, of the German Institute for Economic Research, went to Uganda to find out, and the results of his study make for fascinating reading.

Muhammad Yunus and Grameen America

Muhammad Yunus is in town, plugging the new movie about Grameen America, the US version of his hugely successful Bangladeshi microfinance institution. It’s three years old at this point, and growing fast: it already has four branches, in Queens, Brooklyn, Omaha, and Manhattan, and plans to open another two by year-end. At the moment it has about 6,500 members, growing at a rate of about 5,000 a year.

How the public sees microfinance

In the wake of demonstrations protesting the ouster of Muhammad Yunus from Grameen Bank, the US publicity machine is gearing up, with a “special theatrical event” (Robert De Niro! Matt Damon! Suze Orman!) scheduled for March 31. Judging by the trailer, it’s going to be full of fluff, not particularly timely, and will concentrate mainly on the minuscule Grameen America — which has currently raised $275.40 towards building its first branch.

Tail risk in microfinance, Muhammad Yunus edition

On Monday, it looked like Muhammad Yunus was going to survive as head of Grameen; today, it looks as though he’s out. As David Roodman explains, it’s all very complicated and murky, but the base-case scenario is that everything will be decided in court, and that the courts will side with the Bangladeshi government.

Why Yunus is right about for-profit microfinance

Muhammad Yunus has a heartfelt NYT op-ed railing against for-profit financiers. When he founded Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, he writes, “I never imagined that one day microcredit would give rise to its own breed of loan sharks. But it has.”

from Barbara Kiviat:

The real revolution in microfinance

People often talk (and write) about how commercialization is changing the nature of microfinance. Yet increasingly it looks like an even more fundamental shift is afoot. Microfinanciers are finally figuring out what their customers want.