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Are There Better Ways to Help Consumers Tackle Social and Environmental Problems?

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Consumers - Investors King

Techniques used by online microfinance platforms to spur user involvement could be useful in helping organisations to persuade people to behave in ways that benefit both society and environment.

Microfinance platforms have popularised the idea that ordinary people can become bankers to the poor. Communities of lenders get together every day to crowdfund microloans to disadvantaged micro-entrepreneurs by investing small sums of around only 25 dollars.

A new study digs into the universe of these microloan platforms to investigate how they manage to attract investors and perpetuate their enthusiasm for responding to social problems such as poverty.

Researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Southern Denmark have identified two major ways through which platforms maintain and potentiate lending. Their findings are published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Firstly, the platforms assemble resources that function as an ‘apparatus of affirmation’ – providing first-hand evidence of impact that help consumers imagine the benefits of their actions, thereby creating a sense of empowerment.

Secondly, the platforms translate complex and distant social problems, such as poverty, into personal encounters between lenders and borrowers – creating a sense of connection and familiarity via photographs, stories and loan updates. This set of techniques is theorised as the ‘apparatus of relatability’.

Co-author Dr Pilar Rojas-Gaviria, Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Birmingham, comments: “Organisations such as microlending platforms, which strive to mobilise responsible consumers, face two key challenges – overcoming the powerlessness felt when facing daunting problems, and removing a sense of disconnection from ‘faraway’ problems.

“Supplementing the power of ideas and knowledge with personal stories that inspire hope and aspiration, affinity and connection are powerful techniques that could be useful in inspiring consumers to more actively participate in efforts to tackle social and environmental problems, such as climate change.”

Through storytelling, imagery, platform design and communication, the researchers note that online microlending platforms nurture a feeling that genuine change is possible through affordable actions. They also develop a sense of affinity and empathy among potential investors with aspiring micro-entrepreneurs, particularly those from Low-and Middle-income Countries (LMIC).

For example, the platforms publish loan requests to showcase individual borrowers with first names, photographs, and short biographies. This personalised strategy effectively frames microlending as a virtual encounter with a borrower and their story of micro-entrepreneurship. Celebrities, such as actor Natalie Portman, have over the past years helped the microfinance industry to promote microloans as an act of hope that empowers resourceful poor in their efforts to escape poverty.

Co-author Domen Bajde, from the University of Southern Denmark comments: “The advent of online microlending has expanded the pool of potential investors to anyone with internet access and $25 to spare.

“After learning that lenders were more interested in ’emotional returns’ rather than financial profit from their loans, platforms began to dramatise microlending as an act of aspirational hope and affinity toward the entrepreneurial poor.”

The research is also significant for charitable giving, noting that donors are more likely to contribute when they see their donations as a way of empowering the disadvantaged and when donations are experienced as impactful investments.

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Company News

Dangote Group Expands Refinery Storage Capacity to 5.3 Billion Litres

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Dangote Refinery

The Dangote Group has announced a significant expansion of its refinery storage capacity.

The expansion, disclosed by Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group, during his address at the Afreximbank Annual Meetings and AfriCaribbean Trade & Investment Forum in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Currently boasting a storage capacity of 4.78 billion litres, the Dangote Petrochemical Refinery is set to increase this figure by an additional 600 million litres, bringing the total capacity to an impressive 5.3 billion litres.

This expansion underscores Dangote’s commitment to transforming Nigeria into a hub for refined petroleum products and solidifies the refinery’s role as a strategic reserve for the nation.

Addressing stakeholders at the forum, Dangote highlighted the refinery’s pivotal role in addressing longstanding challenges in Nigeria’s energy sector, particularly the absence of strategic reserves for petrol.

“The country doesn’t have strategic reserves in terms of petrol, which is very dangerous. But in our plant now, when you came, we had only 4.78 billion litres of various tankage capacity. But right now, we’re adding another 600 million,” Dangote affirmed.

The expansion comes amidst various operational challenges faced by the refinery, including attempts by international oil companies to hinder its operations.

Dangote asserted that these challenges, aimed at impeding the success of the refinery, were indicative of broader resistance to change within the oil industry.

“We borrowed the money based on our balance sheet. I think we borrowed just over $5.5bn. But we paid also a lot of interest as we went along, because the project was delayed because of a lack of land, also the sand-filling took a long time,” Dangote revealed, emphasizing the resilience required to overcome these obstacles.

Moreover, Dangote expressed optimism regarding the refinery’s capacity to influence regional fuel prices, citing the success story of diesel price reduction following the refinery’s market entry.

He indicated that while petrol pricing remains a complex issue governed by governmental policies, the refinery’s operations would strive to offer competitive pricing and supply stability.

The expansion of the Dangote Petrochemical Refinery not only marks a significant milestone in Nigeria’s industrial landscape but also positions the conglomerate as a key player in reshaping Africa’s energy dynamics.

As construction progresses towards completion, the refinery aims to further consolidate its role in meeting regional energy demands and fostering economic growth across West Africa.

With plans to commence sales of refined products in the coming months, Dangote’s refinery is poised to play a transformative role in Nigeria’s quest for energy independence and regional economic integration.

As stakeholders await the refinery’s operational debut, expectations are high for its potential to drive down fuel prices and enhance energy security across the region.

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Musk Secures Shareholder Support for Compensation and Texas Relocation

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Elon Musk

Tesla Inc. shareholders have voted in favor of Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s compensation package and the company’s state of incorporation change to Texas.

The results, announced at Tesla’s annual meeting in Austin on Thursday, reflect shareholder approval despite challenges such as declining sales and a significant drop in stock price.

Musk had hinted at the likely outcome the night before the meeting in a post on X, stating that both resolutions were “passing by wide margins.”

The electric car manufacturer did not disclose the detailed breakdown of the votes.

The approval of Musk’s pay package, although advisory, demonstrates continued investor support for his leadership.

The package had previously been nullified by a Delaware judge in January, but Tesla plans to appeal. Should the appeal fail, relocating Tesla’s legal home to Texas may provide the board an opportunity to reintroduce the compensation plan under potentially more favorable legal conditions.

Originally approved in 2018 with 73% of the vote, Musk’s compensation plan makes him eligible for up to $55.8 billion in stock options if Tesla achieves specific milestones.

Currently, the value of these options is approximately $48.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Musk’s leadership has been a topic of significant debate, particularly in light of his oversight of six companies and his tendency toward abrupt strategic changes.

Earlier this year, Musk orchestrated Tesla’s largest layoffs to date, only to rehire some of the affected workers weeks later.

In addition to the compensation package, shareholders voted to reelect James Murdoch and Kimbal Musk to Tesla’s board.

Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has served on the board since 2017, while Kimbal Musk, Elon’s younger brother, has been a member since 2004.

Tesla’s stock saw a modest increase of 0.3% in extended trading following the announcement, though the stock had fallen about 27% over the year compared to a 14% gain in the S&P 500 Index.

During the annual meeting, held at Tesla’s Austin headquarters, shareholders showed enthusiastic support as Musk took the stage in a black Cybertruck T-shirt.

He shared updates on the company’s progress, including the introduction of three new models, the expansion of the Supercharger network, and record production levels for Cybertrucks.

“A lot of people said Cybertruck was fake, never going to come out. Now we’re shipping a lot of Cybertrucks,” Musk stated.

In addressing his substantial pay package, Musk clarified that it is structured as options requiring him to hold Tesla stock for five years. “I can’t cut and run, nor would I want to,” he said.

The push for shareholder support involved a dedicated “Vote Tesla” website and advertising on X, with Tesla investors and executives vocalizing their backing for Musk.

Despite some opposition from significant investors like Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the measures passed.

The relocation to Texas has been formalized, with the certificate of conversion available on the Texas Secretary of State website.

However, any future compensation plan will need to be restructured to comply with Texas legal standards, should the Delaware appeal fail.

The recent shareholder vote may enhance Tesla’s position in the forthcoming appeal. Delaware Chancery Court Judge Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick’s January decision to void the compensation package cited conflicts of interest and inadequate disclosure.

The appeal’s outcome, expected later this year, will determine the next steps for Musk’s compensation plan.

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Merger and Acquisition

Exxon Mobil’s Sale to Seplat Progresses After NNPC Drops Legal Challenge

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exxonmobil

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has withdrawn its legal challenge against Exxon Mobil Corp.’s sale of its oil and gas assets to Seplat Energy Plc.

This decision eliminates a major obstacle that had stalled the completion of the $1.3 billion deal.

The NNPC submitted an application to the high court in Abuja to discontinue the case, as confirmed by its legal firm, Afe Babalola, in an email on Thursday.

This move follows an agreement reached last month between NNPC and Exxon Mobil to finalize the transaction under undisclosed terms.

However, court documents reviewed by Bloomberg reveal that NNPC retains the right to resume its legal challenge if the settlement terms are not honored.

The sale, initially signed in February 2022, still requires approvals from the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), which has set an August deadline, and from Nigerian President Bola Tinubu.

The NNPC’s withdrawal significantly advances the deal but does not mark its final hurdle.

The addition of Exxon Mobil’s blocks will significantly enhance Seplat’s portfolio, almost quadrupling its output to over 130,000 barrels per day.

This acquisition is set to bolster Seplat’s status as one of the leading suppliers of domestic gas to Nigerian power plants, fortifying its influence in the region.

In a parallel development, Shell Plc’s divestment of its Nigerian onshore oil business to a consortium of local firms, valued at over $1.3 billion, also awaits regulatory approval after being announced in January.

Both deals highlight the ongoing restructuring and consolidation within Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, aimed at increasing efficiency and local participation.

As Nigeria navigates these substantial industry shifts, the successful completion of the Exxon Mobil-Seplat deal will be a critical indicator of the nation’s ability to manage large-scale energy transactions.

It will also set a precedent for future agreements and regulatory processes in the country’s vital oil and gas sector.

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