Learn more about Shared Interest

1. Tell us about your mission.

Shared Interest mobilizes the resources for Southern Africa’s economically disenfranchised communities to sustain themselves and build equitable nations. We provide entrepreneurs, smallholder farmers, women, and other unbankable borrowers with the financial and social capital they need to invest in their businesses, farms, families, and communities. We do this by providing loan guarantees to local African banks, moving them to extend credit to “high risk” borrowers who otherwise would not have qualified for credit. By moving local banks to lend to their own communities, we help build sustainable, vibrant economies that are not dependent on international capital for development. Since our founding in 1994, we have benefitted 2.3 million Southern Africans.

2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?

The West Foundation has partnered with Shared Interest for many years, by providing grant support for both general operations, with a focus on institutional strengthening, and specific projects, such as our work with women seed entrepreneurs in Malawi. The West Foundation’s support is particularly crucial to our work because it is flexible, helping ensure that we have the organizational resources that are required to produce strong and impactful programs.

3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is The West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?

Most recently, The West Foundation has helped Shared Interest adapt to the new working conditions imposed by the pandemic. We used 2019 grant funds to upgrade our technological capabilities – moving to cloud-based file storage, improving staff hardware, and investing in new donor management and prospecting software. In some cases, these changes were made a matter of weeks before our offices in New York were closed due to Covid-19. Because of these enhanced IT resources, Shared Interest was able to transition smoothly to remote work, keeping in close contact with our local partners and beneficiaries as well as our donors and investors.

4. How are you realizing your potential?

Shared Interest was founded to push for economic justice in post-apartheid South Africa, and our success there has helped demonstrate that African countries’ own financial institutions are not only capable of serving the majority market but are critical to driving inclusive economic growth. We are now expanding our model across the Southern African region, where financial exclusion is similarly widespread, especially in agriculture and among women borrowers. Working in new geographies (e.g., Malawi, Zambia, and eventually, Tanzania) and in high impact focus areas (e.g., climate change adaptation) is helping us leverage our investors’ capital to impact another 100,000 individuals by 2024, creating jobs and small enterprises, increasing incomes, and building community infrastructure.

5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?

Shared Interest has investors as well as donors, and for more than 25 years, we have been responsible stewards of their capital. We have made 100% of interest payments in full and on time, and we have had zero losses of investors’ principal. To make an investment in Shared Interest, contact martha@sharedinterest.org

6. How can people reading this help you?
Shared Interest is holding its first Virtual Gala this year on September 9th, 2020, and we would love to have you as our guest! For more information, please go to https://www.sharedinterest.org/26thanniversarygala

The event is free! This year, we celebrate the power of women in Southern Africa; accordingly, the event will honor Sophia Williams de Bruyn, anti-apartheid activist and leader of the 1956 women’s march, and Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, South African talk show host, activist, and entrepreneur. The event will also feature an after-party, with beats by DJ AQ.

7. What are your deepest needs as an organization?

We are always in need of partners – of all types – who understand the long-term nature of this work. Changing financial systems that were built, in large part, by and for settler colonialism is a painstakingly slow process. The results are not always easily measured, and progress is not linear or steady. Our most prized relationships are with like-minded organizations who understand these challenges yet remain steadfast in working toward our common goals.


Photo courtesy: Shared Interest