Swiss financial services company, UBS, said that poor infrastructure combined with long distances to school mean that many children in Africa are not getting adequate education and are therefore ill-equipped to fight the cycle of poverty.
In rural South Africa, for instance, many students walk six kilometres or more to school every day, cutting into their learning time or even stopping them from attending school altogether.
UBS believes that providing these children with robust bikes built for rugged country terrain can reduce their travel time by 75 per cent, boosting attendance and educational achievement.
UBS and the UBS Optimus Foundation are therefore challenging Davos participants to walk an average of six kilometres for education during the Annual Meeting for 2015, and will donate 2,500 specially designed bicycles for every Davos participant.
“All children should have access to education and the opportunity to learn,” said Axel Weber, UBS’ chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the corporate responsibility committee.
“In our view, we have a great responsibility to children, and also a responsibility to our shareholders to ensure that our philanthropic activities are highly impactful. This program reflects our commitment to both these goals.”
The bicycles will be provided by the World Bicycle Relief, a non-profit organisation operating in Africa for more than 10 years, dedicated to improving access to education.
(WATCH VIDEO: Education key to Africa’s growing opportunity)
UBS said that the first 1,000 participants to sign up for the challenge at the meeting in Davos will be given FitBit electronic pedometers to log the distance that they walk individually and then to allow UBS to calculate a collective average.
Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of WEF added, “It is in the true spirit of social entrepreneurship to seek innovative ways to significantly improve the lives of children. The meeting in Davos is the ideal place to present creative solutions to improve the state of the world. That’s why we support UBS for the Davos Challenge: Walk for Education, a program that will advance the learning potential for children.”