The benefits of microfinance have been debated since the ’70s when the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh began making tiny loans to impoverished small business owners. In 2006, Muhammad Yunus, the bank’s founder and ‘the father of microfinance’, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Since that time, at least one study has shown the practice does little to empower women in oppressed cultures or improve quality of life for poor people. Yet there are still those who point to amazing microfinance success stories like these as proof that conscious lending can be a good deal for more than just the money men.
1. Reuben Mpunda, Tanzania
Mpunda had struggled for ten years working at a hotel, a brewery, and a ruby mine. When he hit on the idea of selling clean water, a scarce commodity in Africa, he could barely afford the fees to power his tank. After three years of scraping by, he borrowed half a million Tanzanian shillings (or $360) from the Akiba Commercial Bank. T