Pioneer of microcredit in France and founder of the Association for the Right to Economic Initiative (Adie), the economist Maria Nowak died at the age of 87 on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, Adie announced on Friday.
“It is with immense sadness that Adie learned of the death (…) of its founder Maria Nowak, the + banker of hope +”, writes the association in a press release.
“In 1989, with 2 volunteers (…) she introduced microcredit in France by creating Adie, which 35 years later allows each year more than 25,000 people excluded from bank credit to create their business and thus, their job,” she added.
Born in 1935 in the Polish city of Lviv, today in Ukrainian territory, Maria Nowak arrived in France at the age of 12.
After studying at Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics, she notably worked at the French Development Agency (AFD) and at the World Bank.
In 1989, inspired by the Grameen Bank created in Bangladesh by the future Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus (2006) to develop microcredit, Maria Nowak founded Adie.
The association aims to help people excluded from the labor market and the traditional banking system to create their own business, through the granting of microcredits.
Maria Nowak remained its volunteer president until 2011, before taking over as head of Adie International, where she “participated in the creation of several microfinance institutions” in Belgium, Tunisia and Greece.
Still at the international level, Maria Nowak “founded and chaired two microfinance networks: the Microfinance Center (1996) which covers Europe and Central Asia and the European Microfinance Network (2003) which covers the member countries of the European Union”.
Under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, she was also special adviser to the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry (2001-2003).
In 2017, she was elevated by Emmanuel Macron to the dignity of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor.
“Maria was an exceptional woman, made of strength, courage, solidarity and unshakeable confidence in our humanity; without ever paying herself with words, she gave so much of herself to give a chance to those who did not have only words fail to thank her,” reacted the president of Adie Frédéric Lavenir, quoted in the press release.