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International singer and celebrity, Senegalese Aliaune Thiam, born in Missouri, but popularly known as Akon did not forget where he came from and how his origin looks like. That is the secret driving his deepened lift the continent with his massive pet project tagged ‘Akon Lighting Africa (ALA)’ with the sun of over $1bn.
In his latest post on his verified tweeter handle, Senegalese American said “I invested US$ 1 billion dollars in China to provide electricity to Africa. Africa lacks electricity, running water, basic infrastructure; there is a lot of progress to be made. When you travel and see misery, you just want to help.
According to him, “Showing off is no longer my delirium, I don’t wear jewellery anymore. I’ve seen so many people in need, until I feel guilty visiting the villages. Showing up with US$ 50, 000 dollars earrings is useless. It’s just tape to the eye that only serves to look good in front of others. That’s why I decided to use my money to help others.”
How he started
According to Akon (Aliaune Thiam, born in Missouri), he and Thione Niang grew up in Kaolack Region, Senegal, in a town without electricity. In 2013 both decided to help drive Africa’s transformation. Samba Bathily joined them and provided targeted solutions through his company, Solektra INT, which supplies solar-powered equipment. By combining their networks, they launched the project in February 2014. Their initial technique is to install Solar street lights and small energy systems.
The projects provided electricity in 14 African countries as of 2015 and employed over 5000 people, and Akon said they have reached 1 million households in African nations with their projects. The employees, newly trained, were mainly young people who install and maintain solar equipment.
This initiative has taken advantage of the tariffs imposed by the US on Chinese solar panels, leaving the Chinese manufacturers with stock to sell, by lining up credit with China Jiangsu International Economic And Technical Cooperation Group to finance purchase of solar equipment, which allows the nations participating in the project to bypass World Bank loans to get a project started in their own nation.
In an interview, Akon estimated that they have reached 100,000 households and installed 13,000 streetlights. Their approach is to speak with officials at the national level as to villages that are likely for pilot projects in that nation. Once a pilot project is successful, other villages will want the same amount of street lighting and household electricity.
Countries he has touched lives
Since launching in 2014, Akon’s group has operations in 14 nations, including Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Benin and Sierra Leone.
The group announced the launch of the solar academy in Bamako, Mali, at the second United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum, in New York City. Solar Academy will teach students about using solar panels by which they can light Africa.
Samba Bathily told in an interview: “We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities. We now need to consolidate African expertise and that is our objective.”
Source of his funding
On his build up to the funding facility, Akon revealed in an interview in 2017, that “I went to China,” explaining further that “I met up with some friends out there, some manufacturers, and aligned myself with one of the biggest companies in China that’s owned by the Chinese Government, that manufactures Solar…”
In the process of working to have the project kick off, Akon realized that the taxation around Solar Energy was too much, owing to George W. Bush policies during the period under review. “He did it because his main agenda was in oil, he needed the oil to keep burning right, so anything renewable he wanted to keep away because if effected the money,” the singer says of Bush policies.
He, therefore, had to make use of unused solar products and the $1 billion Chinese credit line so as to get the project rolling.
Akon also talked about his African background, mentioning how he grew up without electricity, something he now believes everyone should have access to. He grew up in Senegal, a country located on the West coast of Africa. There was neither electricity nor running water where he lived and so they had to rely on a well.
“When I came to the United States, and [saw] the projects or what they claimed to be projects, Vlad I thought they [were] living in luxury, compared to what poverty is back home…” Akon explained, noting that U.S. citizens have a lot more than other people around the world yet many take such things for granted.
The singer said that it’s his grandmother’s living condition that inspired him to start the project. He says his grandmother declined to move from her hometown in spite of his money and fame. She was living in a house without electricity.
“Every time I would come, I would try to upgrade her, but she would never take it… one day I said ma I’m not coming to visit you anymore… you have to at least let me put electricity in the house. Come to find out the grid was so far out; I don’t care how much money I had there was no way I could bring electricity to her.” And that’s the moment it hit him that something needed to be done, not just for her grandmother, but also in other locations across Africa where people live without electricity. “Without electricity, you can’t even begin to develop a country, let alone your own home,” he says.
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