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FACT CHECK: Solar panel factory in Borno State not Africa’s ‘biggest’ for production capacity

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POPULAR Twitter account Africa Facts Zone repeated a widespread claim in August 2019 that Nigeria’s Borno State has the “biggest” solar panel factory in Africa.

In April 2019, the state’s former governor, Kashim Shettima, unveiled an automated solar panel manufacturing plant in the state. Shettima left office in May 2019.

“It is Africa’s biggest and is fully automated,” Ibrahim Ali, the official in charge of executing Shettima’s industrialisation policy, reportedly told newspaper Daily Trust at the time. “Each year, we would have an aggregate of 40 megawatts.”

The claim by Ali, a former minister for petroleum, was then repeated on other major news platforms, including Nigeria’s GuardianLegit NG, and PM News. It was also shared on Twitter by the federal ministry of environment and the personal assistant to the president on social media, Lauretta Onochie, among others. 

Two plants able to produce more

Africa Check asked special assistant to the state governor on new media, AbdulRahman Ahmed Bundi, to clarify what Ali meant by “biggest”, but the email address Bundi gave bounced.

Spokesperson for the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association, Vuyo Ntoi, told Africa Check there are different metrics by which to judge the size of a solar panel factory.

“It could be about revenue, the number of employees, floor space or the size of the machines,” Ntoi said, adding that the capacity of solar panels sold – in kilowatt or megawatt – is most commonly used. “There are probably lots of places on the continent that make photovoltaic panels but those that do at industrial levels are few and far between.”

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Ntoi referred us to South African factory ARTsolar that was set up in 2010 in Durban. Zubair Ali, a project engineer at ARTsolar, told Africa Check the factory is able to produce up to 300 megawatts per year.

Sunprism Energy Technology, a solar panel manufacturer in Cairo, Egypt, says on its website it has a “production capacity of 50 megawatts per annum”. The company’s financial manager, Amr Abu Ali, confirmed this figure to Africa Check.

Both these African factories therefore have a larger production capacity per year than Borno State’s new plant is reported to have.

 


This fact-check was produced as part of an Africa Check fellowship completed by ‘Kunle Adebajo, a journalist at Nigeria’s International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

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