Not all heroes wear capes: Rapper Akon builds his own city

One of the most notable achievements of 2020 is rapper Akon’s establishment of Akon City. Authorized by Senegal’s state-owned SAPCO tourism company, there will be a “crypto-city” built on 2,000 acres of land. For money, residents will use a cryptocurrency known as Akoin. The city, a five-minute drive outside of Dakar, Senegal’s capital will be billed as a global eco-tourism destination.

Akon was born in Senegal before moving to Union City, New Jersey, at age 7.

The Senegalese-American is best known for his songs like “Locked Up” and  “Lonely” but the Grammy-nominated rapper is more recognized as a business man than a musician these days.

His most recent endeavor prior to Akon City is Akon Lighting Africa, which is providing solar power to African countries.

“I really want to make the biggest impact in Africa for sure,” Akon said during a 2013 interview with CNN. “If I could have my way, Africa would be the United States of Africa.”

About 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity, according to 

Approximately 80% live in rural areas where there is no grid-electricity and expansion is largely financially and logistically infeasible. 

Many of the countries where Akon wanted to tour simply did not have the infrastructure to support big concerts and festivals he was used to playing in the United States, particularly after dark, according to Forbes. So he teamed up with fellow Senegalese-American Thione Niang and Malian entrepreneur Samba Bathily to create Akon Lighting Africa.

The initiative is now showing great progress in the movement to illuminate a country where millions are without power. 

“100,000 solar street lamps installed across 480 communities in 15 countries, along with 1,200 solar micro-grids and 5,500 indirect jobs created,” according to Forbes.  

The question that arises in my mind is what is Akon gaining from this? Akon is a millionaire who has made an immense amount of money from his short career in music, now taking on philanthropy, which is not an uncommon public relations move for celebrities. 

But, philanthropy especially can be used as a disguise for a business move. We have seen this happen with rapper and billionaire Jay-Z and his plans on building the Barclays Center in Brooklyn that was supposed to bring an influx of jobs and revenue to Brooklyn but ended up displacing thousands of New Yorkers.

Promised “affordable housing” has yet to be built and where the construction of new housing was being attempted, there were major structural and engineering problems. The opportunity of opening new businesses in the shadow of the arena was slim. The increase of traction made the surrounding areas more expensive and nearly impossible for Brooklyn natives to thrive there financially and later socially. 

Akon does not pretend that his project is philanthropy. 

“It’s definitely not a charity,” he says. “It is a for-profit company. The way I would categorize it, really, is just social entrepreneurship. We do our business in Africa that’s not [just] to help people, but empower them to make their money in the process,” Akon told Forbes. 

The Akoin is not intended to just be a substitute currency but as a way to establish credit, borrow money, access government services, etc. 

“I think that blockchain and crypto could be the saviour for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people,” Akon said to Business Insider. “Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology offer a more secure currency that enables people in Africa to advance themselves independent of the government.”

The city is expected to be solar-powered and sustainable without requiring assistance from an electricity grid. As a green city relying on renewable energy, Akon City is expected to become Senegal’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified city, according to EuroNews. 

The new city is expected to include homes, shops, parks, universities, schools and its own stadium, according to SkyNews.

When completed, the futuristic city will have its own airport for residents and tourists. Those wanting to visit Akon’s city will be able to fly there and experience the city for themselves. On a Twitter and Instagram post, Akon announced that he is “Looking forward to hosting you there in the future.”

I remember when the critically acclaimed film “Black Panther” came out, about this technologically advanced and mystical land in Africa that had a superhero who defends the safety of the country. Akon is a real life superhero trying to make a change and quite literally bring light to the continent of Africa. 

Qur’an Hansford 

Junior journalism major 

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