A team of South African students, including three UCT alumni, has won the 2017 Geneva Challenge by developing Umvozu – a skills-centered mobile learning application intended to address key issues in the South African labour market: skills mismatch, excessive search costs and inefficient discrimination.
The app also allows employers to access the job characteristics of the app users in order to make better judgements about who to employ.
The Geneva Challenge: Advancing Development Goals International Contest for Graduate Students was launched by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva in 2014 with the generous support of Dr Jenö Staehelin, the first Swiss permanent representative to the United Nations when the country joined the organisation in 2002.
The contest encourages interdisciplinary teams of master’s students to propose solutions to the world’s development problems. This year, the challenge was to explore employment’s role in fostering social and economic development.
The South African winning team was assembled by Sakhe Mkosi. It comprised Mkosi, Fuaad Coovadia and Boitumelo Dikoko, who all completed their undergraduate degrees at UCT, and Keitumetse-Kabelo Murray, who studied at the University of the Witwatersrand. Currently Murray, Coovadia and Mkosi are studying at Oxford University while Dikoko is pursuing his master’s degree in mechatronics at UCT.
Opportunity to change lives
Says Dikoko: “The whole team is honoured to have won. Even before finding out that we were finalists, we spent time planning the implementation process by creating partnerships and planning out the platform. We all know that unemployment, which is closely linked to skill deficiency, is a serious issue in South Africa, so we are now continuing to work on the project as we have an opportunity to change someone's life forever.”
Coovadia says that the problem with looking for work in South Africa is that it is time-consuming, costly and inefficient.
“We all know that unemployment, which is closely linked to skill deficiency, is a serious issue in South Africa.”
A total of 135 projects from around the world were submitted for the competition, with three making it to the final. These were Umvuzo, a skills-centred mobile application for the South African labour market; Delala, an online job-matching system to mitigate urban youth unemployment in Colombia; and NetworkEffect, a solution to connect small businesses and freelance service providers in Pacific Island communities.
Monetary awards of 10 000 Swiss francs (about R142 000), 5 000 francs (about R71 000) and 2 500 francs (about R35 500) were presented to the three teams by Kofi Annan, high patron of the Geneva Challenge.
Professor Martina Viarengo of the Graduate Institute, who is the president of the Geneva Challenge Academic Steering Committee, announced that the theme for the 2018 contest would be climate change.
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