Akon wants to bring solution to ‘darkness’ in Africa
With about 1 billion dollars credit line for launch from international banks, 15 countries of operation and 480 communities covered. 100,000 solar street lamps, 1,200 solar micro-grids, 102,000 solar domestic kits, about 75,000 dollars per village on average and about 5,500 indirect jobs created, Akon Lighting Africa is a reality in 15 African countries such as Mali, the Republic of Guinea, Benin, Senegal, Niger, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Madagascar, Namibia.
The Akon Lighting Africa Project is an initiative by the Senegalese-American hip hop singer Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam better known as Akon. He was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the Number One selling artist for master ringtones in the world.
At the United Nations COP22 which held in Marrakech, Morocco in November, the singer, songwriter and producer had an interview with Dolapo Aina.
What is your foundation about?
Well, it is not a foundation; it is Akon lighting Africa Project. And ultimately, what we want to do is to be able to give light in Africa especially in the rural areas where there is complete darkness. So we want to be the solution to the darkness, energy and poverty issues.
How long has this project been ongoing?
The concept came about in 2012-2013 and since then, we have pretty much hit the ground running. I have been learning a lot; building up a team that has a high knowledge of energy and where we could be effective. And ultimately, we have been moving and have been in operation for the past three years.
What are the success stories you have had?
In the beginning, we started off just trying to illuminate a million homes because the need is so vast in Africa; now we are currently in fifteen countries. Actually, we are moving five times than we projected at this particular moment.
What would you term as success and what is your target ar the end of the day?
The target is usually to get to forty eight countries in Africa and we are trying to set up hundred and fifty thousand mini-grids through out West Africa alone. And we are going to do that within the next five years.
Have you been getting positive responses from African governments and parastatals?
Yes. They have been very supportive. They always lend a hand when they can and allow us to be in a position to present the project and really get to understand what we are doing. Invariably, due to this, we have been able to move a lot faster.
What are the challenges you have had to overcome?
The biggest challenge was in the beginning. Getting the governments to understand what we were trying to do. You have to realise that three years ago, solar was not really a focus in Africa. Before the COP conventions, solar was not something they understood. A lot of the leaders were a lot older and they did not really understand the impact of what solar could do. We felt that solar could be the solution especially in the rural areas. So, it just took time in convincing a lot of the African leaders.
And coming from an entertainment background and talking about energy was something they did not really take seriously. That was one of the challenges.
What is the next step?
The next step is to try to move forward as much as we can. And pretty much deliver on all the contracts that we currently cover which are all in fifteen countries, to make sure they are officially lit up. And then, from there, try to incorporate a lot of the smart lighting that Africa can definitely benefit from.