The Geneva Challenge 2017: Finalists

Umvuzo - A skills-centred mobile learning solution for the South African labour market


The Team


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Fuuad Coovadia is a Bachelor of Business Science graduate in Economics from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and will begin an MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Oxford in October as a Rhodes Scholar. Fuaad has authored a microeconomics study guide for undergraduate students and co-founded Presto – a publishing company that specialises in providing educational materials such as study guides for university and high school students. Fuaad has worked as a consultant for the small enterprise development NGO Phaphama.

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Boitumelo Dikoko is an MSc candidate in Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town’s Mechatronics Research Group. Boitumelo has a BSc(Eng) in Mechatronics also from the University of Cape Town. His current research interest is the application of Multiple-Robot Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) in the mining sector. In his current research, he aims to use robots to improve mine safety for workers by mapping and searching for any dangers after events such as blasts.

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Sakhe Mkosi is a Rhodes Scholar and MPhil candidate in Development Studies at the University of Oxford’s Department of International Department. He is a former audit consultant at Deloitte, has an undergraduate degree in Financial Accounting and an MPhil in Public Policy and Administration, both from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. His current research is on financial inclusion policy in South Africa but his research interests extend to tax administration reform – on which he wrote his Public Policy and Administration dissertation – international tax avoidance and illicit financial flows.

Square - Keitumetse-Kabelo.jpeg   Keitumetse Kabelo Murray completed an Honours in International Relations, cum lade, at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), is currently an MA candidate in international Relations at the same institution and will begin an MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Oxford in October on a Rhodes Scholarship. Throughout his time at Wits he served on the Student Representative Council as the Social and Community Development Officer. Whilst on SRC, he focused on tackling food insecurity on campus, a passion which then developed into his field of research. Situated in Joubert Park, Johannesburg, his research tackled issues of poverty, inequality and food insecurity.


The project

Our proposal introduces Umvuzo, a skills-centred mobile learning application intended to address key issues in the South African labour market: skills mismatch, excessive search costs and inefficient discrimination. In our proposal, we maintain that there is a structural mismatch in the South African economy between the types of skills that are, and have increasingly been, demanded, and the skills base of the labour force. We also show that South African job seekers and employers are faced with excessive search costs due to a job seeker pool which is located far from employment centres, high telecommunication costs, and a shallow skills base. Moreover, as a result of low faith in the basic education system and disillusionment with established recruitment methods, the criteria through which many South African employers make hiring decisions are misaligned with the skills required to perform in given vacancies.

Umvuzo – from the isiZulu word meaning reward or earning – offers job-seekers the opportunity to improve their skills through gamified modularised courses in three areas (in-demand skills, job readiness and job search), view vacancies and make job applications, all through their mobile phones. For the job-seeker trapped in their own financial inability to actively seek jobs or engage in formalised training, this solution provides much needed relief.

Off the back of the country’s continent leading levels of smartphone penetration, the application also provides an innovative offering to employers: the opportunity to observe prospective employees’ motivation, learning capacities and performance in skill areas directly related to their areas of business. Therein lies the innovation that Umvuzo brings: linking a skills development platform directly to potential employers, thereby making the hiring process more efficient for both parties. For the labour market as a whole it introduces a low-cost, accessible means of making skills the direct focus of recruitment and working towards overcoming structural inequities relating to formal academic qualification, race, gender or location. [more]


Mitigating Urban Youth Unemployment through Information Technology: Delala - the Work Connector


The Team



Camila Lercari is a MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School. She worked in private wealth management at the Latin American investment bank Credicorp Capital prior to enrolling at Columbia University. Before that, she worked in investment management at Prima AFP, one of the largest Peruvian pension funds. Camila holds a bachelor degree in Economics from Universidad de Piura and is studying towards hers Master in Business Administration at Columbia University. She is from Lima, Peru.


Hermila Yifter is a Pickering Fellow pursuing her final year of Master in Public Administration in Development Practice at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. While completing her undergraduate at Georgetown University, Hermila worked for the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and continued on her internship at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She worked at the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs in D.C. and worked on providing resources to African diaspora all throughout the D.C. greater metropolitan area. After graduating, Hermila served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in San Diego, working on refugee resettlement issues in the development and outreach department.


Manasi Nanavati is pursuing a Master in Public Administration in Development Practice at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. Before entering graduate school, Manasi worked as an environmental executive in private environmental consultancy in Gujarat, India. While in UIS, she interned in Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as a data coordinator. Before joining SIPA, she was working as a research consultant in World Resources Institute-India, where she was a part of the Urban Climate Resilience team. In collaboration with WRI-Brazil, Manasi assisted in contextualizing indicators for Indian cities’ resilience assessment.


Jorge Salem is pursuing a Master in Public Administration in Development Practice at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. Prior to enrolling at Columbia University, Jorge worked in supply chain management throughout Latin America at a mining company, Anglo American. Prior to that experience Jorge was a Business Manager at a Microfinance institution in Guatemala and owned his own high end craft company. Through his career switch from mining to economic development, Jorge demonstrates sincere interest in reducing the gap of income inequality and employment. Jorge holds a bachelor degree in International Political Economy from Colorado College and is from Lima, Peru.


Zac Hoyer-Leitzel is pursuing a Master in Public Administration in Development Practice at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. Before enrolling at SIPA, Zac spent almost a decade working in youth development and alternative education for vulnerable populations. Most recently, he taught in the NYC community college transition program CUNY Start and in a DYCD funded youth workforce development program in Washington Heights. Zac has built on this background at SIPA through eight months of academic credit earning M&E and strategy research work for Kiron Open Higher Education for refugees, and hopes to continue his transition from the classroom to policy research in the second year of his MPA studies.


The project

By 2050, Sub-Saharan African countries are projected to have fastest population growth with the highest youth population in the world. As urbanization paces forward in African countries, unemployment issues are becoming more complex and urgent, especially in cities. Presently in Ethiopia, labour markets are inefficient and plagued by frictional unemployment.

As one of the solutions to these problems, this project proposes decentralised access to better employment-related services and information through an online job-matching system strategically located on the outskirts of cities in publicly accessible areas in the form of user-friendly touch-screen systems, also called ‘kiosks’ or ‘Delala – the work connector’. The intervention will reduce the drivers of frictional unemployment like search costs and market misperceptions of potential candidates and employers. These kiosks will serve as online software that matches candidates to jobs based on factors such as industry and role experience, hard and soft skills, geographic proximity, and more.

The short term objective of this intervention is to minimize the costs associated with job-search and hiring processes. Furthermore, it will provide access to information to the regions which were previously less informed and lacked resources, and will thus bring inclusivity in the labor market. Potentially, this intervention can also be adapted to serve social causes, such as women’s employment.

In the long run, Delala could drive the economic transition away from an agrarian base, strengthening the formal economy of the region while making the urban labor market more efficient. The real-time data generated from such a system can also inform investors and the government toward more effective training, employment, and business-support policies. More importantly, with relevant modifications, this intervention could be scaled and replicated effectively in other regions of the world that are challenged by similar issues of frictional unemployment. [more]


NetworkEffect: Creating sustainable jobs in the Pacific through sharing economy tourism


The Team



Andrew Wheeler – is a Rhodes Scholar and Master of Public Policy (MPP) candidate at the University of Oxford. Andrew’s academic background is in development economics – he holds an M.Sc. in Economics for Development (Distinction) from the University of Oxford, and graduated as Valedictorian from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Commerce (First Class Honours in Economics). He is passionate about finding solutions to youth poverty – he authored a research paper for Young Lives on intergenerational equity in the Asia-Pacific, and led a research team that investigated drivers of child malnutrition in rural Papua New Guinea, collaborating with ChildFund. Andrew has also advised Save the Children on funding strategies and the formation of program partnerships in the Pacific, and is Chairman and Co-Founder of Parity Education, a charity that donates used computer equipment to remote schools in the Northern Territory.

Eleanor.jpg   Eleanor Brown is a Saïd 1+1 Scholar and dual MPP/MBA candidate at the University of Oxford. Eleanor’s academic background is in politics and gender studies – she holds a Bachelor of International Politics (First Class Honours) from the University of Melbourne, and is an Australian Government Student Prize recipient. Prior to graduate study she worked as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company, designing & implementing major change programs across the Asia Pacific region, and leading internal efforts to promote women in leadership. Eleanor’s core focus is women’s role in driving more sustainable, inclusive business and government – she has led an 11-way merger of Australia’s oldest grassroots women’s NGO to create a national entity, worked with UN Human Rights Council Independent Expert Elizabeth Broderick to convene Australia’s most prominent male CEOs tackling gender inequality as a Program Director for the Male Champions of Change network, and was an Assistant Attaché to Australia’s Representative on the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York, working primarily on global women’s rights.
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Hamish McKenzie is a Rhodes Scholar and MPP candidate at the University of Oxford. Hamish’s academic background is in anthropology and environmental studies - he holds a Master of Environmental Management from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Anthropology (First Class Honours) from the University of Melbourne. His Honours thesis comparing multiculturalism and nationalism in South Africa and Australia won the Australian Anthropological Society award for best Australian Honours thesis and was subsequently published in the journal Ethnicities. Prior to graduate study, he worked as a climate change reporter at both the COP20 in Lima and COP21 in Paris, was a strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group advising primarily on cultural and creative industries in the Asia Pacific, and worked in gender equality policy with the Australian Government. Hamish currently works in sustainable development, conducting research on combatting illicit financial flows in the extractives sector.


Joanne Rossiter – is an MPP candidate at the University of Oxford. Joanne’s academic background is in law and business – she holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Commerce from the Australian National University, and is admitted as a lawyer in the Australian Capital Territory. As an advisor in the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, she has gained experience in legal, social and economic policy, and engaged with top priority policy challenges that span multiple portfolios. She has a particular interest in vocational education and training, as well as employment and workplace relations policy.  Joanne’s academic and professional interest in education policy is reflected in her extracurricular endeavors; she volunteers as a tutor for recently-arrived refugee families.

Toby.png   Toby Phillips  is an MPP candidate at the University of Oxford. Toby’s academic background is in chemistry and biology – he holds a Bachelors of Science (First Class Honours) from Flinders University, where he conducted research on drug synthesis. Prior to graduate study, he worked as an advisor in social and welfare policy in both the Australian Department of Human Services, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This including working closely with communities in the most remote parts of regional Australia. Toby strongly believes in the potential of young people to make an impact in their communities, and volunteers extensively in grassroots youth organisations such as the Scouts and youth mentoring schemes. He also has experience in NGO management, having held Board Director positions and international advisory roles in a number of community-focused NGOs.


The project

At 14.5 percent unemployment, Pacific Island small states have more jobseekers out of work than any other region on Earth. However, the factors that create employment difficulties in the Pacific Islands also give it a comparative advantage in tourism. The United Nations has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and the opportunity for tourism in the Pacific is enormous – if it can be fostered in a way that truly benefits local citizens. One promising avenue to achieve this is in leveraging the power of the sharing economy to even the playing field for independent tourism operators.

NetworkEffect harnesses the opportunities presented by tourism and sharing economy growth to benefit local, underserved Pacific Island communities. Our solution, involving a simple online platform and supporting program of work, will expand and improve employment options by facilitating collaboration between independent and aspiring operators in the same area to better position them to capture the growing tourist market. Through NetworkEffect, small businesses and freelance service providers can connect with each other, cluster their services, and collaborate to achieve economies of scale.

NetworkEffect program staff will help identify current and potential entrepreneurs in underserved local areas, and connect them to the information, networks, and platforms they need to turn their tourism ideas into thriving sources of employment. From there, NetworkEffect will focus on proactively guiding the growth of service offering clusters in underserved locations, with the goal of creating an ecosystem of complementary offerings. Finally, NetworkEffect will support local operators to overcome scale and cash flow issues by identifying opportunities for providers to collaborate through sharing of capital - whether it be in shared physical spaces, equipment, vehicles, or similar.

Solving unemployment in disconnected regions is hard. Providing skills and training for non-existent or declining industries is futile. Direct employment through public works only succeeds so long as philanthropic dollars are flowing. Instead, our solution helps local communities create sustainable employment, in place, by building on a natural advantage the region already enjoys: it is one of the most beautiful and pristine locations in the world, rich with enduring cultural heritage. [more]