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For 21 years, Shared Interest has helped end poverty in South Africa by connecting farmers and handicraft makers with legitimate and supportive investors. In 1994, South Africa had its first democratic elections, and Shared Interest was launched to help bring South Africa out of poverty. The organization was initially started by black South Africans, who had been sent into exile, in the United States in 1985. Shared Interest established a partner organization called the Thembani International Guarantee Fund in South Africa in 1995 to work with banks to invest in low-income black townships and rural communities and help bring them out of poverty.

Shared Interest is the only nonprofit committed to providing guarantees and supplies to black townships and rural communities in South Africa. While South Africa does not suffer from a lack of capital, the country has issues with evenly distributing capital to its residents. Shared Interest works to alleviate this problem by helping banks enhance their financial principal.

The organization was founded by Donna Katzin, who served as executive director from 1986 to 1994. All of the board members have continued to assist South Africa with social justice, education and development.

When people receive the investments, they are able to afford houses, start businesses, support their families and create jobs. This also allows community institutions to expand their operations to better serve more clients, strengthen their finances and increase their commercial viability. Financial institutions and banks benefit as well, as it allows them to build their capacity to serve the underprivileged.

There are more than 400 individuals and institutions in the United States investing in rural communities in South Africa, with investments totaling over 12 million dollars. As of right now, all of the investments have been paid back and the investees have utilized the loaned funds to bring themselves out of poverty. As of 2012, 79,657 people have received assistance from investors, with 100 percent of them being able to pay them back. Because of this support, 43,429 jobs have been created and 36,219 small businesses and microfinance clients have benefitted. In total, 145,473 people have served as guarantee beneficiaries.

Every August, Shared Interest hosts a month-long celebration honoring women in South Africa. The celebration focuses on empowering women who run businesses and are struggling with upholding their economic, social and political rights. The celebration brings together investees to commemorate making it out of poverty and to overcome other issues together.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Shared Interest, Matador Network
Photo: BrazilWorks