This past November, small business owners from developing countries around the world were recognized by a new initiative called the Global Microentrepreneurship Awards.
The effort, spearheaded by a group of US graduate students and led by a team from HBS, was part of the official launch of the “UN International Year of Microcredit”. Award competitions took place in Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Mexico, Mozambique, Pakistan and Rwanda.
The goal of the program was to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of micro business owners by bringing the world’s attention to their innovation and perseverance under even the most challenging conditions.
For the students’ work in launching the innovative program, Mrs. Nane Annan presented HBS’ Bhakti Mirchandani (OH) with an award at a November UN reception honoring the “Year of Microcredit”.
“Ultimately we hope that the Global Microentrepreneurship Awards will be replicated in underdeveloped countries around the world and encourage the proliferation of microenterprise,” said Mirchandani.
Winners from around the world also rang the opening bells of stock exchanges around the world, including financial centers such as London and Zurich. The NASDAQ also held a reception to mark the achievements of the program’s aspiring entrepreneurs.
Next year, the competition will grow to more than two dozen countries with the help of partners Citigroup and the United Nations Development Programme and student teams from HBS, Wharton, and Yale, among other leading universities.
The initiative aims to spark further investment in the microfinance sector from donors, governments and private sector businesses. Microfinance institutions have achieved average repayment rates greater than 95 percent, and commercial banks are beginning to profitably enter the sector.
This is just the beginning of the sector’s potential to provide financial services to developing countries.