Alex Counts is President and CEO of Grameen Foundation, and the author of “Small Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World” (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). Below, he recounts his visits to assess the state of microfinance with Grameen Foundation partners worldwide.
I am coming to the end of my longest fall trip – it’s been a whirlwind and culminates in an emotional climax tonight.
Today, there will be a massive event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The theme for many will be “another wall to fall,” with the focus on how poverty needs to follow the Cold War into the dustbin of history. To symbolize this, Professor Yunus will be the final speaker at the event, which will also feature many European heads of government.
My journey began in Miami, where I was attending the board meeting of Fonkoze USA, the U.S. sister organization of the largest microfinance institution in Haiti. We heard Fonkoze’s co-founders, Father Joseph Philippe and Anne Hastings, report about some positive trends in the their organization and also some troubling developments in Haiti, including the fall of the government (i.e., the Prime Minister was forced out by the President) the day before we arrived in Miami – something that could set back many recently announced humanitarian projects, some of which Fonkoze would stand to benefit from. With Haiti, even at the best of times it seems like two steps forward, one and half steps back – but Fonkoze battles on. The board of directors of Fonkoze elected me their Chairman, in part due to the great support that they have gotten over the years from Grameen Foundation. I was honored and humbled.