When economist Muhammad Yunus decided to issue a loan for $27 to a group of women in Bangladesh in 1976, he did not know that he was sparking a "microcredit" revolution worldwide.

Since then, microloans have been hailed for saving millions of people from the poverty trap. Industrious people from all walks of life have launched their dream business with a loan of $1,000 or less, and their stories have inspired even more people.

Now Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts to alleviate poverty, is expanding his microfinance concept to the US.

Grameen America already has more than 4,000 customers, and branches are sprouting throughout the country.


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But is there a downside to microfinance? Critics say it might help entrepreneurship, but it does not help with basic education and healthcare where people need it.

Does microcredit spiral borrowers further into debt? What happens when people cannot repay their loans?

And why is a country such as Bangladesh, which has a high microcredit penetration (up to one in four households has a microloan), ranked 146th on the UN's Human Development Index?

On Wednesday, Riz speaks with Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, and with Aneel Karnani, who teaches strategic management at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

You can join the conversation. Call in with your questions and comments on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at our new live time of 1630GMT, with repeats at 2130GMT, and the next day at 0230GMT and 1130GMT.

Source: Al Jazeera