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Development Marketplace 2009 winner honored as 'Young Laureate'

Tom Grubisich's picture

Development Marketplace 2009 winner Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu of Nigeria is the recipient of a $50,000 Rolex "Young Laureate Award" newly given to five pioneering social entrepreneurs under the age of 30 from around the world.  Besides the cash that will be earmarked to advance their innovation-focused projects over two years, Ikegwuonu, 27, and the other Laureates will have access to mentoring from groundbreaking experts who are past winners of the watch company's long-established Awards for Enterprise.

Ikegwuonu and the other awardees were selected from almost 200 nominees for launching "innovative projects [that] have begun to have a profound effect on their communities and potentially could improve the lives of millions of people," the citation said.

The young Nigerian was recognized at the Development Marketplace 2009 competition for his plan to produce an interactive 20-episode radio drama designed to help small farmers in the southeastern region of his country figure out how to better manage the risk of growing crops in extreme weather that swings from storms to droughts. The adverse weather has been intensified by climate change that has hurt farming across Sub-Saharan Africa and clouded the hopes of many developing countries to reach their 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

With his DM award, Ikegwuonu seeks to expand his already established radio network from 250,000 mostly subsistence farmers to 3.5 million in 5,000 villages.  Listeners will be able to questions and send other comments back to the studio via the two-way broadcast network that Ikegwuonu has developed.

The international panel of jurors who selected Ikegwuonu for his Young Laureate Award hailed his proposal because "it has so many benefits for local people" and "it is not the mother of technology but the mother of communication."  He is profiled here.

Rolex will recognize the Young Laureates at an event at the company's recently opened Rolex Learning Center in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 2010.

Nnaemeka is an alumnus of the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) program for social entrepreneurs at Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society.  The Center was a Resource Partner for Development Marketplace 2009.