Pitting Africa’s brightest young minds against each other to solve real business challenges and improve their employability lies at the heart of the Unilever Africa Idea Trophy. Stiff competition and a wealth of pioneering ideas over the past few months have culminated in the final: and Team Sparkle from South Africa took the top honours, with Team Innovatus from Nigeria earning the runner-up spot.
Now in its third year, the Africa Idea Trophy is aimed at second and third year students with the express intent of combatting youth unemployment on the continent by equipping young people with the skills required in the workplace. This is why the competition is made up of multiple challenges across three main stages; it builds invaluable business acumen.
“According to research by the International Labour Organisation, youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa sits at around 12% - and, despite being the most educated generation to emerge from schools and universities, a young person in Africa is twice as likely to be unemployed when he or she becomes an adult,” reveals Rachelle Harmsey, Leadership Development Director, Africa. “At Unilever, we view it as our responsibility as a top employer of choice to eradicate youth unemployment across the continent by providing the youth with the tools and skills that will make them ready for the world of work.”
Essentially, the competition partners with a power brand so that students can conceptualise and implement solutions to tangible business problems. This year, Close Up was the hero brand that participants needed to formulate a social purpose campaign around. Close Up is the youth-focused oral care brand working to instill social confidence, making it the perfect fit for this year’s competition.
“Working with Close Up provided students with much-needed experience working on a real brand in a multinational company – complete with mentorship from Unilever’s veteran business leaders, assistance from creative agencies, and access to resources and tools to bring their ideas to life and gain practical knowledge about marketing and sales, finance and business strategy,” says Harmsey.
For the second year, winners of the individual country competitions proceeded to the finals hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the victorious team was named. The overall winning team of Phindile Khoza, Pascale Prinsloo and Ndivho Maginya – and the second placed team comprised of Oluwaferanmi Muraina, Oluwapelumi Kolade and Ayobami Kalesanwo – will represent Africa at the Global competition that will take place in London during May 2017. In addition to the London trip, the victors walked away with mobile phones and tablets. They also stand the chance of being selected for an internship with Unilever.
“This competition has allowed us to build valuable networks with like-minded future leaders,” said Phindile Khoza, “The experience has been invaluable and we look forward to representing Africa on the world stage.”
An important component of the competition is also building knowledge in soft skills and personal branding. For this reason, Unilever provided 100 selected students with an intensive Class of Confidence Youth Employability workshop as part of the final. It covered ‘Future trends in graduate selection’, ‘Optimising personal online profiles’ and ‘Navigating and thriving in our unique African landscape’.
“Unilever is known for being a purpose-driven brand working to build a bright future, and initiatives like the Africa Idea Trophy form the cornerstone of our continued investment in the continent’s youth to provide them with the skills that they need to unlock their full potential,” concludes Harmsey.