Young Nigerian awarded for food-saving innovation

A software engineer from Nigeria has won an international award for his cloud-based application that automatically notifies food retailers of food products approaching the end of their shelf-life. This allows the retailers  to offer discounts to charities.

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Oscar Ekponimo, a software engineer from Nigeria was one of 10 innovators to win the Rolex Award for Enterprise.
Photo: Tomas Bertelsen/Courtesy of Rolex

Oscar Ekponimo was one of five Young Laureate winners from around the world to win a Rolex Award for Enterprise.

According to a statement issued by Rolex, when Ekponimo was 11 he went to school hungry. That year, his father had a partial stroke, causing him to lose his job and, with it, the family income.

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“For the next three years we had little food in the house,” recalled Ekponimo.

“If we had one small meal at the end of the day, it was a good day. I recall one instance when all I ate in a 48-hour period was a biscuit snack a friend shared with me at school.”

Despite Nigeria being Africa’s largest economy, seven in 10 Nigerians survive on less than US$1,25 (R17,80) per day, according to the statement. For an estimated 13 million Nigerians, hunger is a daily reality.

Ekponimo devotes up to 30 hours every week, on top of his day-time job, developing solutions to alleviate hunger:

“I wanted to find an affordable source of nutrition for economically disadvantaged people. I could see there were a lot of organisations trying to solve the problem, but I also saw so much food being wasted. If food wastage can be addressed, food availability will improve and the stress on natural resources will lessen.”

Ekponimo’s cloud-based software application, Chowberry, reduces food waste and redistributes products to people in need. The application enables retailers to scan item barcodes on packaged food items three months before the expiry date.

As the end of shelf-life approaches, the software generates notifications, initiating discounts that increase as the products approach their final date. Low-income consumers and food-relief agencies are notified where discounts are being offered.

Ekponimo has completed a successful three-month pilot project with 300 users and 20 partner retailers within Lagos and Abuja, feeding about 150 orphans and vulnerable children.

Ekponimo said his Rolex Award funds would go towards hiring engineers to upgrade the software, ensuring the application is more robust, and scaling up the organisation by adding more retail partners.