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Largest Faith-based Pension Fund Invests $1 Million for Small and Micro-enterprise Development in South African Low-Income Communities

Submitted by: Shared Interest

Categories: Socially Responsible Investing

Posted: Jul 09, 2007 – 03:24 PM EST

 

Investment seeks to alleviate poverty and build wealth in South Africa’s economically marginalized communities

Jul. 09 /CSRwire/ - NEW YORK- July 9, 2007 – Shared Interest, a leading New York-based social investment fund, has received a $1 million investment from The United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to support small and micro-enterprise development in South Africa’s most impoverished communities, signifying the pension fund’s commitment to invest in economically marginalized communities like those served by their African clergy.

The five-year investment, which is Shared Interest's largest single investment, is one of the first U.S. pension fund investments in African communities.

Funded by U.S. investors, Shared Interest works with its South African partner, the Thembani International Guarantee Fund, to guarantee South African bank loans to communities underserved by mainstream financial institutions, for small and micro-enterprises, affordable housing and rural community businesses and cooperatives.

This investment demonstrates the Pension Board's commitment to building a democratic South Africa through prudent and productive investments in the country's underserved communities," said Donna Katzin, executive director of Shared Interest."We are proud that the United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is partnering with Shared Interest to unlock these communities’ tremendous economic and human potential."

Today, more than half of all South Africans still lack access to banking and other financial services. Shared Interest serves loan clients, who have been historically excluded from financial services due to race, income levels, health status, or gender.

The $1 million investment will leverage at least $6 million in loans to clients of South African community development finance institutions, benefiting an estimated 30,000 entrepreneurs. Since 1994, Shared Interest has benefited nearly one million black South Africans, of whom more than 75 percent are women.

David Zellner, chief investment officer for The United Methodist General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, said the pension fund's investment in Shared Interest will help provide retirement security for United Methodist clergy in Africa and represents a continuation of its investments in the area of microfinance.

"Concurrent with this initiative, the General Board wanted to make an investment that had a positive social impact on the African continent, home of rapidly growing church membership," said Zellner. He noted that the pension fund strives to place funds with organizations that will deploy their capital in a manner that will positively impact the lives of underserved individuals in the United States and abroad.

With more than $15 billion in assets under management, the United Methodist pension fund is the largest faith-based pension fund in the United States and ranks among the top 100 pension funds in the country. A socially responsible investor, the pension fund has invested more than $600 million in social investment opportunities since the program’s inception in 1991.

ABOUT SHARED INTEREST

Shared Interest, an $11.4 million not-for-profit investment fund, mobilizes resources for South Africa's economically disenfranchised communities to sustain themselves and build an equitable nation. The fund guarantees bank loans and mobilizes technical assistance for low-income communities to construct houses, create jobs, and launch small businesses. Launched in 1994, Shared Interest has benefited more than 975,000 black South Africans – more than 75 percent of them women.

ABOUT UNITED METHODIST GENERAL BOARD OF PENSION AND HEALTH BENEFITS

The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is a not-for-profit administrative agency of The United Methodist Church, responsible for the general supervision and administration of the retirement, health and welfare benefit plans, programs and funds for more than 74,000 clergy and lay employees of the Church.

For more information, please contact:

Phone: 646-290-8211
Koren Gaines Shared Interest
Phone: 646.442.0186

 

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