In 1987, Dr Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert and Dr Alex Boraine approached George Soros with a request to fund one of several talks between the African National Congress (ANC), and business and political leaders from South Africa.

The ANC at the time was banned in South Africa, and many of its leaders were imprisoned or in exile. Held in Gorée, Senegal, and now known as the Dakar Conference. This was a vital set of talks that contributed to the unbanning of the ANC and other political parties in South Africa, the release of all political prisoners and eventually, the negotiated political settlement in South Africa which led to the first national democratic elections in 1994. In the months before, OSF opened its first African office in Cape Town, South Africa. Dr Van Zyl Slabbert was the first Chairperson of the OSF-SA Board, subsequent Chairpersons include- Dr Brigalia Bam, Justice Azhar Cachalia, Ms Zyda Rylands, Mr Isaac Shongwe, and current Chairperson, Ms Yasmin Carrim.

George Soros also provided support for the establishment, and later for the running, of the Gorée Institute for Democracy, Development and Culture in Senegal, West Africa.