Earlier this month former Thomson Reuters Foundation trainee Birame Faye was one of two winners of the first Media Awards on Electrical Counterfeiting in Africa for his investigative reporting on electrical counterfeiting in Senegal.
Faye, a journalist at Senegalese newspaper Le Quotidien, investigated a slew of domestic and street market fires and discovered that the poor quality of the electrical wiring was the basic cause.
After the story was published, “everyone was talking about it,” Faye said. “Now, the safety of electrical wiring everywhere, including public buildings, is a serious problem for the country’s authorities.”
Faye’s report revealed that faulty electrical wiring is widespread in Senegal. He discovered that counterfeit Chinese electrical products account for 80 percent of the market and that the wiring in 93 percent of homes in Senegal does not comply with safety standards.
In 2012 there were at least 10 fires in Senegalese street markets which caused an estimated 33 million pounds’ worth of damage. Faye confirmed in his article that electrical malfunctions caused the fires.
One of these fires was particularly tragic. “On March 5 2013, nine children died after a fire started in a section of the Medina (market) in the centre of Dakar,” said Faye. “The fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit. I waited for the first anniversary of the death of the nine children to publish the story.”
The winners, decided by Schneider Electric, a France-based global specialist in energy management, were chosen in a unanimous decision according to Mohammed Saad, President of Schneider Electric in Africa. Faye will be flown to France for the award ceremony.
Faye took part in Thomson Reuters Foundation’s training course in Reporting Business and Financial News in Dakar in August 2012, part of a pan-African programme funded by Norad. He said, “Thanks to the financial and business journalism training course I attended, I have come to better understand the challenges that Africa poses to multinational companies. Counterfeit products made by Chinese firms seriously threaten their business. It is a reality that we cannot ignore.”
The other winner was Adedeji Ademigbuji, senior correspondent at The Nation newspaper of Nigeria.