Geographies in Depth

The Davos challenge: bicycles for African schoolchildren

Georg Schmitt
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Poor transport infrastructure combined with long distances to school mean that many children in Africa are not getting an adequate education. In rural South Africa for example, children are walking up to 9 kilometres to school every day. This cuts into their learning time or even stops them attending school altogether.

Providing schoolchildren with robust bicycles built for rugged country terrain can reduce the time they are spending on their way to school and back by 75%. It helps to boost attendance and educational achievement.

The World Economic Forum has launched “The Davos Challenge: Walk for Education”, a programme designed to help cut the time children travel to school in rural areas and improve their learning opportunities. It is a collaboration with UBS and World Bicycle Relief.

If Davos participants walk on average 6 kilometres for education during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2015, UBS and the UBS Optimus Foundation will donate 2,500 specially designed bicycles to a schoolchild in rural South Africa, one for every Davos participant. The bicycles will be provided by World Bicycle Relief, a social enterprise in the Schwab Foundation network, which is dedicated to improving access to education and increasing learning outcomes by reducing travel time for children.

The first 1,000 participants to sign up for the challenge at the meeting in Davos will be given electronic pedometers to log the distance they walk individually in order to calculate the collective average.

Based on the projected combined results of the Forum participants, UBS and the UBS Optimus Foundation expect to donate a total of 2,500 Buffalo Bicycles through World Bicycle Relief.

Visit to learn more about the project.

Author: Georg Schmitt, Associate Director, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum.

Image: School children are transported along the Mchinji road-the highway linking Malawi to Zambia’s eastern province, April 21, 2008. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

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Geographies in DepthEducation and Skills
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