It’s a problem that transcends national boundaries and Amjad Saqib, a Pakistani native, has committed to travel across borders sharing his solution.
From the shanty towns in economically deprived regions of his home country to the suburbs of the nation’s capitol, Saqib has committed his efforts not simply to serve the poor, but to eradicate poverty itself through micro financing. He presented his decade long mission at the Islamic Society of Baltimore on April 5th.
“You cannot do business with the poor. If you do business with the poor, they will always remain poor,” said Amjad Saqib, founder and executive director of Akhuwat, a premiere interest free micro financing firm in Lahore, Pakistan.
Saqib started Akhuwat in 2001. It began as a small effort but has since grown to include 450 employees and serve over one hundred and thirty thousand families in the region.
Akhuwat operates as a revolving fund. Lending out small amounts of money to those in need, allowing them to pay back the money without interest over time.
“We created a pool of money that is being supported by the rich and well to do. We as an organization do financial and social intermediation,” said Saqib. “We disburse the money in that pool to the poor and needy.”
As of March 31st 2012 Akhuwat has lent out approximately two billion rupees or about 22 million dollars.
While Saqib hopes that sharing news of his organization will encourage others around the world to establish similar options for the poverty stricken, he also hopes that while doing so the world might see a different side of Pakistan, one that doesn’t include violent overtones or images of political unrest.
“I’m here to tell that there is a different [financial] paradigm and it’s a home grown model in Pakistan. Generally the impression of pakistan is very low,” he said.
Encouraged by the work of Muhammad Yunus but inspired by his faith, Saqib said his only motivation is nested in the idea of universal brotherhood and the intrinsic desire to help those in need.
“This is the only opportunity for the poor to come out of poverty and to live a very dignified life,” said Saqib.
A graduate of King Edward Medical College in Lahore, Saqib also completed a Master’s in Public Administration and was a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at American University in Washington D.C.
He worked as a civil servant in Pakistan in 1985 and then as General Manager of the Punjab Rural Support Programme in 1998 where he worked for seven years. Resigning from civil service in 2003, Saqib committed himself to philanthropic efforts and consulting work to various organizations including the Asian Development Bank, International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Canadian International Development Agency.
In 2010 Saqib was awarded the “Sitara-a-Imtiaz,” (the Star of Excellence), a civil service award considered to be Pakistan’s third highest honor.