Chevron underwrites operational costs for Grameen America

By Eric Watkins
Last week, we wrote of efforts by ExxonMobil to improve life in Africa, especially in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

This week, attention comes back to the US where Chevron Corp has committed $1 million to Grameen America, an innovative microfinance organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus.

Grameen America provides small loans, known as “microloans” and other financial services to individuals living below the US poverty line who want to start or grow a small business.

Grameen America relies on the Grameen lending model developed over 30 years by Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

Grameen America has been successfully working in the US since 2008, so far funding 5,000 borrowers and lending out more than $13 million in microloans, averaging $1,500 each.

Chevron said its donation will support the launch of Grameen America's first West Coast branch in the San Francisco Bay Area by funding Grameen America's operational costs.

Microlending meets a unique need in the Bay Area, where unemployment numbers made the second largest year-over-year increase in the nation. The Bay Area unemployment rate hovers at approximately 10%.

Grameen America anticipates helping as many as 250 local borrowers and distributing more than $300,000 in microloans the first year of operation through its Bay Area branch.

"The economic slowdown has made it especially difficult to secure funding for Bay Area small businesses and entrepreneurs, often a catalyst for job creation and economic growth for the state," said Stephen Vogel, CEO of Grameen America.

"Chevron's support will help hundreds of entrepreneurs realize their dreams of starting their own businesses," said Vogel.

"The success of our company is tied directly to the economic health of our community," said Rhonda Zygocki, vice president of policy, government and public affairs for Chevron. "We believe Grameen will help create economic opportunities for people that wouldn't exist otherwise."

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