The Southern Africa Media Development Fund (Samdef), traces its origins to the Second Annual General Meeting of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which was held in Mbabane, Swaziland in November 1994. That meeting, which brought together diverse group of independent media practitioners from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, resolved that the MISA Head Office in Windhoek commission a feasibility study into the setting up of a venture capital/revolving fund to assist with the development of the nascent independent media in the SADC region which is facing a number of problems. This study was conducted during the course of 1995 and, the decision to set up a media development fund ratified by the Annual Congress of MISA in Zanzibar in November of the same year.
Samdef was established in 1998, as a media development arm of MISA, the southern Africa regional lobby body. Its initial mandate was to provide finance, training, and development support to emerging media enterprises in the region. In an endeavour to realign the operations of the institution, a major restructuring exercise was undertaken in 2001. The restructuring exercise saw the creation of a new institution Southern Africa Institution for Media Entrepreneurship Development (SAIMED) which focuses on entrepreneurial development, research and training. Samdef retained the core business for the provision of media finance.
From the initial amount of US$1 million in 1998, Samdef's portfolio has grown steadily to over US$9m. Over the period Samdef has invested in over 30 projects throughout the region in the different media sectors like television, radio, newspaper, video production and magazines.