Hon. George Monyemangene presents corporate award to Mark Grier, vice chairman, Prudential Financial, Inc.

*Shared Interest, a leading New York-based international social investment fund, mobilizes resources for South Africa’s economically disenfranchised communities to sustain themselves and build an equitable nation.  Its $14 million dollar guarantee fund has leveraged credit of more than $95 million to struggling South African communities that were once considered “unbankable.”

Each year, the non-profit organization honors individuals and institutions whose initiatives promote and protect human rights, gender equality, economic justice, and democracy in South Africa.

At its 17th annual awards dinner Monday, March 14, 2011 at New York City’s beauteous Gotham Hall, Shared Interest paid tribute to two pioneering financial institutions and a leading AIDS activist and organization for investing in the well-being of South Africa’s low-income communities and advancing their economic and social rights.

The awards dinner honored Vuyiseka Dubula and Nobel Peace Prize-nominee Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) for launching successful campaigns to expand access to comprehensive prevention and treatment services to people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa.  Currently, 5.6 million people are living with HIV in South Africa.  Dubula, TAC’s Secretary General who is HIV-positive, has been an outspoken advocate for the rights and dignity of people living with HIV.

Editor-in-chief emeritus, Essence Magazine, Susan L. Taylor with Shared Interest executive director Donna Katzin

Calvert Investments and Calvert Foundation were jointly recognized for their long commitment to socially responsible investment to help rebuild and serve poor communities in South Africa.

“We are very proud to have been a part of South Africa’s historic refutation of apartheid and its subsequent progress towards greater social, political and economic justice,” said Wayne Silby, co-chairman of Calvert Foundation and president of the Calvert Social Investment Fund.  “Through Calvert Foundation’s community development programs, we hope to help the South African people build on their success, creating the jobs and businesses that will drive great prosperity in the years to come.”

“Sustainable and responsible investing can be a powerful force for good,” said Barbara Krumsiek, Calvert’s CEO and chairman, noting that the divestiture techniques that Calvert first applied in South Africa have since been employed to put economic pressure on repressive regimes in Sudan and Myanmar.  “We continue to refine and enhance our approach to achieve both competitive investment returns and positive social change.”

Lisa Hall, president and CEO of Calvert Foundation said: “Shared Interest delivers incredible social impact while also using investment dollars wisely and making the most of their resources to serve the people of South Africa.”  Calvert Foundation has made loans to Shared Interest for over a decade.  “I am so pleased to be honored by them, and also proud to be associated with their mission and their work.”

Prudential Financial, Inc. received the corporate award for more than a century of corporate citizenship and social responsibility, and for investing in some of the most impoverished communities.

Despite having no direct investments in South Africa during the apartheid era, the company was a signatory to the Sullivan Principles, a corporate code of conduct on doing business in South Africa.  As of December 31, 2010, Prudential’s public investment units have over $300 million of client assets invested in South Africa.

Mark Grier, vice chairman of Prudential Financial, Inc., accepted on behalf of Prudential Financial Inc.  “Prudential is dedicated to supporting ventures that create healthy and sustainable communities all over the world,” said Grier.  “We applaud Shared Interest for working to help create a more sustainable future.  Prudential is honored to be recognized by this outstanding organization.”

“On the 17th anniversary of Shared Interest and South African democracy, we are extremely proud to recognize these esteemed honorees for their commitment to investing in low-income communities and building a just, peaceful and prosperous South Africa,” said Donna Katzin, executive director of Shared Interest.  Building an economic democracy in South Africa has begun.  We need to finish the job.”

The evening featured a powerful musical performance by Tony Award-nominee singer and actress Tsidii Le Loka Lupindo who is best known for originating the role of Rafiki in the Broadway production of The Lion King.  Sandra Bookman, anchor of WABC-TV Eyewitness News, served as the evening host.

Over 300 distinguished U.S. and African leaders and top diplomats attended the social gathering with proceeds going to provide black South African entrepreneurs with access to credit and technical support to launch small businesses, create jobs and build secure new communities.

Joyce and David Dinkins, Danny Glover, H.E. Ambassador Fikile Magubane, H.E. Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, H.E. Ambassador Baso Sangqu and Susan L. Taylor and Khephra Burns served as honorary chairs.  Philip and Karen Berry, Don Lowery and Tim Smith served as co-chairs.  This year’s major corporate sponsors were Prudential Financial Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Calvert Investments, and The Nielsen Company.

Since 1994, Shared Interest has been mobilizing US investors, philanthropists, corporations and faith-based organizations to invest in black South Africans by providing microfinance organizations, agricultural cooperatives, small businesses and low cost housing organizations with access to capital.

Shared Interest has been hailed by esteemed leaders such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former President Nelson Mandela as one of the most promising institutions for economic empowerment in South Africa.  (Photos by Imagezs of Us)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.