Anti-Apartheid: Why a Wall Street Couple Make South Africa a Priority

All shall be equal before the law: justice graffiti in Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Ben Sutherland

All shall be equal before the law: justice graffiti in Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Ben Sutherland

Princeton and Stanford grad Derek C. Schrier is a finance veteran who founded Indaba Capital Management at the start of the decade in San Francisco. He currently serves as managing partner and CIO of the firm. He and wife Cecily Cameron, a writer, live in the Bay Area and move their philanthropy through the Cameron Schrier Foundation.

The foundation supports select nonprofits in the United States as well as South Africa, with an eye towards issues including educational equity, and leadership development. Africa, particularly South Africa, figures prominently in this family’s history and is important in understanding their philanthropic concerns. In fact, the name of Schrier’s firm, Indaba, is drawn from the Zulu word for “business,” or “matter.”

So how did South Africa cross this wealthy couple’s radar?

Well, when a young Schrier left investment banking firm Goldman Sachs in 1992, he started working with the nonprofit CASE, managing elections research and polling for the African National Congress during the party's historic political campaign for South Africa’s first-ever democratic elections, in 1994. 

Schrier's involvement as a young man in that historic election turned out to be a formative experience. Not long ago, he and Cecily gave a $1 million gift to University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, to endow a new chair in development economics. The Derek Schrier and Cecily Cameron Chair in Development Economics aims to "foster research into issues such as South Africa’s transition in relation to sustainable development and democracy, macro-economic policy, and corporate transformation." Way back then, Schrier worked with University of Witwatersrand professor Mark Orkin in the anti-apartheid effort.

Of the gift, Schrier said, “My time in South Africa impacted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I made the decision, at the age of 25, to come here… the experience helped shape who I am today; I am better off for it, and owe South Africa a debt of gratitude.”

Historically, the Cameron Schrier Foundation has given half of its grants in the U.S., giving about 30 percent in Africa. It gave another 6 percent in other regions outside the United States.

Grantees include African Leadership Academy; Center for Effective Global Action, a hub for research on global development; Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance; Princeton in Africa; and Kucetekela Foundation, a “nonprofit organization which provides scholarships to Zambian boys and girls.”

Given the personal elements involved, expect Schrier and Cecily to continue to support select causes in South Africa. The Cameron Schrier Foundation has an accessible website, but does not accept unsolicited proposals.

For a complete overview of this couple's work, read our Wall Street Profile of Derek and Cecily.

Profile: Derek Schrier and Cecily Cameron