Africa Tech Rising

Chowberry: How a software engineer is feeding Nigeria’s poor with an app

Story highlights

Software engineer Oscar Ekponimo created a web app that connects the poor to supermarkets in Nigeria

Food that would normally be wasted is sold at a discount to those in need

CNN  — 

Growing up Oscar Ekponimo was familiar with hunger.

After his father had a partial stroke, he was temporarily ill and unable to work, leaving the family struggling to make ends meet.

“I remember most times there was little or no food [in the house],” he told CNN. “I had to go to school without food and got by with snacks friends shared with me.” .

“I always said in the future I would do something to ensure others wouldn’t go through what I went through.”

The Chowberry app is now functional in Lagos and Abuja

Fast forward to 2017 and Ekponimo, now a software engineer, is doing exactly that through his web app Chowberry.

The app connects supermarkets to NGOs and low-income earners, allowing them to buy food that’s about to expire at a discount.

Ekponimo says the response to the project has been encouraging and he’s been able to see first hand how it’s transforming lives.

“We met one lady who has six children and survives on 400 naira ($1.05)a day,” he said. “She sells firewood and kunu (a local drink). One day the task force seized her kunu for hawking in the street, and she had nothing. She had to feed her family on what she made. So it’s nice to see the impact of what we’re doing.”

A three-month pilot involving 20 retailers reached about 300 people in Lagos and Abuja, feeding 150 orphans and children at risk.

He is hopeful that more national retailers will join the scheme as demand for the service continues to grow in the face of Nigeria’s recession.

“We went from about 1,500 daily visits to double that. There have been requests and demand, people tell me we really want this, we’re relying on what you guys are doing because things are expensive.”

There are currently 20 local retailers on board

Hunger and food insecurity are problems still plaguing the continent.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 223 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry or undernourished in 2014-2016, the second largest number of hungry people in the world.

According to the World Food Programme, Nigeria is a ‘food deficit’ country, meaning that it cannot provide enough food for its population.

Widespread poverty, inflation and insecurity have been cited as contributing factors to Nigeria’s hunger problem.

Last year, the UN revealed 14 million in the northeast of the country need urgent humanitarian assistance because of the ongoing Boko Haram conflict and warned that 75,000 children could starve to death in months.

Last year, Ekponimo won a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work and has hopes to expand.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” he said. “We’re expanding our work and working on scaling to other parts of the country and to other regions and possibly replicating it in other parts of the world.”