Eric Mutta: Managing East Africa’s food supply through tech

As the mind behind award-winning apps MiniShop and the Grainy Bunch, 29-year-old Eric Mutta is currently mapping out his plan for solving the problems of African society.

The Tanzanian joined the world of ICT thirteen years ago tinkering with mobile app ideas – initially launching a mobile dating application which over the years has amassed 10,000 subscribers. Since the early days, however, Mutta has gone from strength-to-strength growing his own reputation through the successes of his supply-chain apps.

With no office to speak of, Mutta runs his one-man company, Problem Solved Ltd, from his computer without any colleagues, single-handedly developing innovative and award-winning apps heralded as being set to transform the response to food scarcity issues in Africa.

He first attracted widespread attention for MiniShop, an innovation aimed at small business enterprises, providing such companies with a system to keep stock records, monitor sales and purchases and keep track of expenses. A key function of MiniShop is the fact that the app continues to work in the event of power outages – which in lesser computerised systems can result in data being lost due to sudden black-outs.

Multiple upgrades to the original Mini-Shop have since been finalised – with Mutta’s service now also offering an automated accounting variation, which he hopes to sell to small and large banks alike. He intends the accounting app to be used as a source of assurance for lenders – potentially even in the place of collateral – providing lending facilities with a database of credit information on clients. The application can also be used as a sales and credit record-keeping system, much like its original processor.

Mutta shot into the global spotlight in January of this year, winning first prize in the East Africa round of the second ever Apps4Africa competition. The 2011 theme was Climate Challenge; the competition inviting entrants to create innovative new apps that work towards solving climate-related problems that commonly affect their communities in Africa.

Announcing the winners of the US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs competition in January, Mutta’s latest variation on the Mini-Shop app shot to fame – the Grainy Bunch won first prize and a $15,000 award.

The Grainy Bunch adapts the original Mini-Shop service to the grain supply sector – grain being pivotal to Tanzania’s economy, accounting for 49 percent of food produced by the country and the single most-traded food group among the self-sustaining section of the country’s population. The app provides a grain supply-chain management service, allowing users to monitor grain purchases, storage rates and locations, consumption figures and distribution data across the whole country.

It is intended to consciously monitor the grain supply system across Tanzania, and provide indicators as to possible tensions in the supply-chain. As such the Grainy Bunch is heralded as being a key player in ensuring food security across the country, by helping to alleviate snags in nationwide supplies.

With his $15,000 prize money, Mutta hopes to expand his company by hiring a programmer and growing the number of socially-useful apps on offer by the company. He also quips: “I have to figure out how to turn $15,000 into $15 billion in fifteen years.”

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