A Middlesex University student has had a business master class with Richard Branson - after winning a competition to find outstanding Nigerian entrepreneurs.
Postgraduate student Nasir Abdulqadir Yammama beat thousands of competitors to win the Enterprise Challenge - an online competition run by the British Council and Virgin Atlantic, in partnership with Zenith Bank.
Targeted at Nigerians aged 18-35, the Apprentice-style competition took place over three rounds, during which candidates wrote essays about their entrepreneurial journeys, created video pitches for their businesses or business plans, and had their ideas scrutinised by a panel of experts in Nigeria and the UK.
Creative Technologies masters student Nasir won with a business plan for a mobile phone app called Verdant, designed to help crop farmers in the face of the global food crisis.
Nasir (24) commented: "I come from a farming family in Nigeria and wanted to use my interests, skills and career to help farmers. The app is like a companion for farmers and brings together intelligence they wouldn't normally have access to. Hopefully it will help them farm more effectively and increase their business."
The app will allow farmers access to a wealth of intelligence including the type of soil their farm is on, what fertilisers would be best suited, market intelligence, weather forecasts, and annual rainfall and its effect on particular crops. It would also offer a marketplace, where farmers could easily purchase farming products using their smartphone.
The plan impressed the judges and secured Nasir a mentoring session in London with Sir Richard Branson and the second winner of the competition, Eseoghene Ise Odieteruns. Eseoghene runs Hesey Designs - an online store selling African-inspired accessories.
"Many congratulations to Ese and Nasir who had fantastic business plans and I'm sure will have very bright futures." - Sir Richard Branson
The session was designed so that the winners could ask about and learn from the magnate's life and business experiences.
Talking about the mentoring opportunity, Nasir said: "Meeting Sir Richard Branson was a priceless opportunity that I will continue to value immensely. I have been able to acquire so much wisdom and inspiration that I feel ready and bound to exceed all expectation."
Sir Richard Branson commented: "Innovation has been an important part of Virgin's heritage and I was pleased to see so many young Nigerians keen to embrace new ideas through the competition. Many congratulations to Ese and Nasir who had fantastic business plans and I'm sure will have very bright futures."
Each winner also received a £5000 grant, courtesy Zenith Bank to help them develop their businesses, a fully-funded scholarship to attend a 5-day entrepreneurship foundation course at the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa, and two return tickets to the UK.
Nasir continued "I'm indebted to my Creative Technology course as it helped me win the competition. One of the modules focused on working with industry, so we learnt how to create business plans and pitch our ideas.
"With that training, there was no way of me losing the competition. It's been a remarkable and exciting course. The tutors, students and facilities are amazing, and I always look forward to every class. The creative freedom we are given is immense!"
Nasir joined the postgraduate course in London after completing his degree at the Middlesex University Mauritius campus.
Magnus Moar, Senior Lecturer in Digital Arts Technologies, said : "We are very proud of Nasir and his achievement in gaining this award. He has identified a need and an interesting way of addressing it. It's really great to see Nasir's hard work having such an impact."
Nasir will use his grant to bring his app to market and hopes to pilot it early 2015. In the future he hopes to make the app global and introduce it to farmers in other developing nations.