|Biographical detail : ||Bangladesh’s poverty reduction model maker
Fazle Hasan Abed founded the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), one of largest non-government development organisations in the world whose poverty reduction model has lifted more than 35 million people out of abject poverty.
Educated in Dhaka and Glasgow Universities, a professional accountant who was holding a senior Corporate Executive’s position at Shell Oil in Chittagong underwent a profound and dramatic change in the direction of his life in 1971. The Liberation War of Bangladesh and its aftermath inspired him to serve his people. He established BRAC to help millions of refugees who needed relief and rehabilitation in his country. To help the poor develop their capacity to manage and control their own destiny alleviation of poverty and empowerment of the poor emerged as BRAC’s primary objectives.
BRAC with an annual budget of $1 billion – 78 percent self-financing and with a recovery rate of 98.7 percent – now works in more than 69 thousands villages of Bangladesh covering over 110m people in the field of income generation, healthcare, population control, primary education for children and the like. BRAC has so far disbursed over $3,900m as micro-credit to 5m people, mostly women. It is Bangladesh's second largest employer after the government.
Four decades later, Abed's approach has been hailed as one factor behind the drop in the proportion of Bangladeshis living in extreme poverty from 80 percent to around 40 percent of the population.
Abed’s micro-enterprise and education initiatives have been expanded to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and southern Sudan to help countless others. BRAC now has a staggering 130,000 local employees worldwide.
BRAC's overseas expansion began in 2001 when Abed followed the collapse of the Taliban regime and was struck by the parallels with Bangladesh in the early 1970s. So he took his organisation to Kabul, the Afghan capital. BRAC extends credit to 180,000 families across the country, has a presence in all 32 of Afghanistan's provinces, and has just been granted contracts to run hospitals in 10 Afghan provinces — including one in Kabul.
In 2001, Abed launched BRAC University as a centre of excellence in knowledge creation through research that connects with practice. The university now offers a Master programme in Governance and Development for mid-level civil servants.
On commercial level Abed has set up the BRAC Bank, Aarong – a retail outlet, BRAC Dairy and Food Project and the profits made out of those are ploughed back into BRAC’s core development fund.
Immaculately attired and cigar in hand, Abed has received numerous awards both nationally and internationally including the Inaugural Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2007. Holding dual nationality, Bangladeshi-British, he was knighted in Britain in 2010.