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Akon: Singer, Entrepreneur, City Builder

Source: High Snobiety

If you were around in the mid-2000s, you remember Akon. You've heard Smack That, or Lonely, or Locked Up blasting from cars, or emanating from clubs around the world. But the entertainment world is not Akon's only calling. Beyond his career in music, he has taken ownership of a solar panel company that has given sustainable energy to fourteen African nations, purchased a diamond mine in South Africa, and most recently, is working on plans to develop a solar-powered 'city of the future' in Senegal.

How, you might ask?

When beginning his business ventures, Akon started from home. Growing up in Senegal, Akon noticed that society would close when the sun went down, his village relied on candlelight and kerosene lamps for light, which weren't always trustworthy and were hazardous. Once he had built a name for himself, he decided to give back to his homeland. He created the company Akon Lighting Africa in 2014 to bring renewable energy to villages without power in Africa. At the time, Chinese solar panel tech was under a tariff in the United States, meaning U.S. buyers weren't taking it, as a result the companies in China producing them had a surplus of equipment. Akon took advantage of this, and took hold of a $1 Billion dollar line of credit from a Chinese manufacturer, and used it to build solar power infrastructure in 15 African nations, powering 1 million households with renewable energy.

This in and of itself would be a peak of philanthropy for many, but Akon isn't finished. His next plans are to build a 2000-acre green energy city in Senegal called Akon City. A cursory glance through the development website shows a fantastical vision of a city that is equal parts tourist destination, center of commerce, and a new center for film and media on the continent, with the largest media production studios in Africa planned for construction. The architecture of the city is sleek, eye-catching, and rounded on every structure. Conceptual images show the closest thing we have to creating Wakanda in real life. Solar power is meant to be the main source of energy for this bustling metropolis.

And even more innovative, Akon plans for the entire city to use crypto-currency for its services, from public transport to taxes. The city will be flush with Akon's crypto, Akoin, the principle behind this being a 2019 study that by 2025, 623 million Africans will have cell phones, almost half the continent. Creating fertile ground for digital currency.

Concept of Akon City. Source:

The idea is one of a kind, but there are of course, serious reasons for doubt. Only $4 Billion of Akon City's proposed $6 Billion budget has been reached by investors. The main investor is Kenyan-born billionaire Julius Mwale, whose business record is shady to say the least. The city's concept is utopian, and from that, very hard to realistically meet all expectations. And the vulnerability of cryptocurrency markets has been proven more and more in recent years, so a city run entirely through a decentralized currency can prove to be a very risky experiment. So beyond the grandeur and flash of this project, the reality has to be confronted, and many locals will want Akon City to serve their community, and not become some decadent castle for the elite tourists that it may bring. In a piece from Reuters, municipal councilor Pape Massamba Thiaw voiced his hopes for what Akon City would bring to his region:

"I don’t want us to be just day labourers. We have to be among the managers,"

Another reason for skepticism, ground hasn't even been broken on the Akon City project, and Uganda has recently allocated a square mile of land to be used as a secondary Akon City, on a smaller scale. Definitely with the intent of bolstering tourism to Uganda, the project there may take longer, as roads will need to be paved. Akon's own estimate is that Akon City 2.0 will not be completed until 2036.

Though we should praise powerful people who do great things on behalf of humanity, there is nothing wrong with having a healthy amount of skepticism for Akon City, its chances of ever becoming a reality, and the socioeconomic implications on native Africans if it does become real.

More than anything, these are developments to watch very closely as time goes on. To close, here is a 3-D view of Akon City with all proposed districts and infrastructure mapped.

Written by Max Olarinde, @mobeige1 on all social media.

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