Nobel Laureate Praises Social Businesses

Cambodia’s social business sector is in its infancy, but it will grow as the country’s youth turn their attention to addressing the problems plaguing their country, visiting Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said Wednesday.

Social business, a term first coined by Mr. Yunus, is a business created to address a social problem.

Such businesses are financially self-sustainable and the profits are reinvested in the business to boost their social impact, Mr. Yunus explained, speaking on the sidelines of a panel discussion at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center.

“It is just beginning,” Mr. Yunus, 73, said. “Social businesses are supposed to address problems, and it’s funny, the problems are the same all over the world.”

“Whether it’s a rich country like France or the USA, or a poor country like Bangladesh or Cambodia, they’re the same: Problem of politics is one; problem of unemployment; problem of financing; problem of health care; problem of housing; problem of food; problem of water.”

Mr. Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work to create economic and social development for the poor through microcredit. In 1983, he founded the Grameen Bank, which provides microcredit to those in need.

Mr. Yunus, a Bangladeshi national, said one example of a social business already in Cambodia is 1001 Fontaines, a French organization that addresses the lack of clean water in villages in Cambodia.

Mr. Yunus said that while anyone can help solve such problems by creating a social business, it is the young population who are more likely to do so because they are better witnesses to issues within society.

“The youth are the ones with a fresh mind. They see things which the older generation doesn’t see.

“Challenge yourself…. For the young people, realize you have the power,” he said.

When asked about the health of Cambodia’s microfinance sector, Mr. Yunus said he plans to meet today with the Cambodia Microfinance Association to assess the industry.

“I will have a better understanding of this tomorrow,” he said.

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