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July 5, 2022

Creating Financial and Humanitarian Change with Jonathan Shafer

In 2008, as a recession raged on in America, Jonathan Shafer believed it was time to make a difference elsewhere. After meeting a family searching for someone to launch an investment strategy company in West Africa, Jonathan jumped on the opportunity. Planning to be in Africa for only one year, Jonathan and his family ended up staying for seven years.

Despite its challenges, Jonathan saw tremendous opportunity in Africa, both financially and through humanitarian work. Given that 600 million people in Africa don’t have access to power, investing in renewable energy became Jonathan’s primary focus, creating flourishing financial returns as well as a powerful impact on the lives of native civilians. 

Today, Jonathan’s efforts in Africa total more than $215 million of invested capital, and include ventures such as Fortis Green Renewables, a firm investing in renewable energy assets throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, and CommonGood Capital, a financial services company focused on global values-based investments.

In this episode, Jonathan talks with Doug and Greg about why Africa has incredible opportunities for both financial investments and powerful humanitarian change, the impact alternative power sources can have on the quality of life in Africa, the risks of developing hydropower in Africa versus elsewhere, and what life is like in Kigali, Rwanda. 

Key Takeaways

  • [01:13] - Why Jonathan and his family moved to Rwanda. 
  • [06:53] - What it’s like to live in Rwanda. 
  • [10:22] - How Kigali’s international reputation is evolving.
  • [11:58] - The mission behind Fortis Green Renewables. 
  • [15:36] - What power source Jonathan focuses on.
  • [19:38] - How the risks of developing hydropower in Africa differ from the risks of developing renewable energy elsewhere. 
  • [21:52] - How bureaucratic obstacles differ in Africa versus the United States. 
  • [25:38] - How Jonathan considers potential contract disputes.
  • [29:31] - What major themes and investment opportunities exist in Africa besides power. 
  • [34:32] - The altruistic benefits of investing in power across developing regions. 
  • [39:06] - What the return difference is between infrastructure investment projects in Rwanda versus the United  States. 
  • [40:37] - What visitors should see in Rwanda. 


[04:05] - “It was really this desire back in 2008 to use my skill set to make a difference in the world. How do I use the talents that I have and the skills that I’ve acquired to not just go build orphanages and not just go build schools, but how do we use business as a tool to really make an impact on people’s lives?” ~ Jonathan Shafer

[32:43] - “When we look at the world, when we look at emerging markets in terms of where do we think the most potential for long-term growth is, we look at Africa. I think the challenge is you have to pick those segments of the market at the right time.” ~ Jonathan Shafer

[34:48] - “I have very little, let’s just say no interest,  in making money for the sake of making money. Money is important. Money matters. But, for me personally, I only want to be involved with things that a) make money, that’s a given, but then have the potential to have a positive impact on people’s lives.” ~ Jonathan Shafer


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The information in this podcast is educational and general in nature and does not take into consideration the listener’s personal circumstances. Therefore, it is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized financial, legal, or tax advice. To determine which strategies or investments may be suitable for you, consult the appropriate qualified professional prior to making a final decision.