A team of South African students has won the 2017 Geneva Challenge, receiving their prize from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (left). Picture: AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo

Geneva - A team of South African students has won the 2017 Geneva Challenge, receiving their prize from former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan at the Graduate Institute, a prominent university in Geneva.

The Geneva Challenge, Advancing Development International Student Competition, was launched in 2014 with the support of Ambassador Jenö Staehelin, the first Swiss envoy to the United Nations, when the alpine country joined in 2002.

It encourages interdisciplinary teams of master 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. A total of 135 project entries were submitted by teams from around the world.

Three projects made it to the final: 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.

The three teams presented their projects at a public hearing on October 31, said the university.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark who was the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2009 to 2017 gave a speech on the links between employment and sustainable development.

The first prize went to the Umvuzo team, made up of students from the University of Cape Town (Boitumelo Dikoko), University of Witwatersrand (Keitumetse Kabelo Murray) and the University of Oxford (Fuuad Coovadia and Sakhe Mkosi).

“The problem in South Africa is that job seeking is time-consuming, costly and inefficient”, said Fuuad Coovadia.

“Umvozu is a mobile application that links job-seekers with employers, allowing jobseekers to upskill themselves through training modules delivered in a gamified process, and employers to access the job characteristics of the app users to make better judgements about who to employ.”

Monetary awards of 10 000 Swiss francs (about R1.4 million), 5 000 francs (about R71 000) and 2 500 francs (almost R36 000) were presented to the three teams by Kofi Annan, High Patron of the Geneva Challenge.

Graduate Institute professor Martina Viarengo, president of the Geneva Challenge Academic Steering Committee, said that the theme for the 2018 Geneva Challenge would be climate change.

Independent Foreign Service