Akon Is Pushing Solar Power in Africa

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 28: Akon performs on stage at Park City Live during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 28, 2012 in Park City, Utah. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Clare Foran
Aug. 4, 2014, 8:24 a.m.

Akon is a multi-plat­in­um re­cord­ing artist now, but be­fore mak­ing a for­tune with hits such as “Smack That” and “Locked Up,” he was a child grow­ing up without elec­tri­city in the West Afric­an na­tion of Seneg­al.

“I was one of those kids you see run­ning around with no shoes on liv­ing in straw huts,” Akon said in Wash­ing­ton on Monday. “I was blessed to be able to come to the U.S. with my dad and I’ve seen a bet­ter life, but it really hurts a lot know­ing that Africa has all these re­sources and we haven’t fully taken ad­vant­age of it.”

Akon wants to bring that bet­ter life to the con­tin­ent of his birth. In Janu­ary, he launched an ini­ti­at­ive called Akon Light­ing Africa that aims to elec­tri­fy a mil­lion house­holds across the con­tin­ent by the end of the year.

Akon spoke with Na­tion­al Journ­al on the side­lines of an event hos­ted by Gen­er­al Elec­tric fo­cused on op­por­tun­it­ies for en­ergy in­vest­ment in Africa.

The event is one of many that will take place in the na­tion’s cap­it­al this week to co­in­cide with the U.S.-Africa Lead­ers Sum­mit, the first-ever dip­lo­mat­ic meet­ing of dozens of Afric­an heads of state, mem­bers of Con­gress, and Pres­id­ent Obama.

Akon Light­ing Africa is work­ing to dis­trib­ute and in­stall sol­ar-powered street lights and res­id­en­tial sol­ar sys­tems to Afric­an vil­lages. And it’s on track to reach its goal of light­ing up a mil­lion house­holds with clean en­ergy by the end of 2014.

The mu­sic mogul cred­its the pro­ject’s run­away suc­cess to the will­ing­ness of loc­al Afric­an en­tre­pren­eurs to help out with the de­ploy­ment of sol­ar pan­els.

His fame has also giv­en the pro­ject a ma­jor boost. “I think it helps a lot,” Akon said. “It helps to fast-track what we’re do­ing and get a lot of at­ten­tion to the cause.”

The pro­gram op­er­ates in 14 Afric­an coun­tries, in­clud­ing Seneg­al, Mali, and Burk­ina Faso. Akon Light­ing Africa has also partnered with the Give1­Pro­ject, a lead­er­ship-de­vel­op­ment non­profit, and ADS Glob­al Cor­por­a­tion SA.

But don’t call it a char­ity. “I get tired of hear­ing that Africa is a char­ity case,” Akon com­men­ted. “Africa is wide open for busi­ness, and we’ve found a good busi­ness mod­el. Africa will nev­er run out of sun.”

Des­pite the re­cord­ing artist’s sunny out­look, however, power­ing Africa re­mains a tall or­der. Roughly 550 mil­lion people live without ac­cess to elec­tri­city in Africa, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank. And just 1 per­cent of private-sec­tor en­ergy in­vest­ment cur­rently flows in­to the con­tin­ent.

Akon knows his ef­forts are only a drop in the buck­et, but for now, he says, it’s a step in the right dir­ec­tion.

“A lot of times people get stuck think­ing about how big of a chal­lenge this is, but it’s im­port­ant to start some­where and that’s ex­actly what we’re do­ing,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
FIRST TIME SINCE COLD WAR
Nuclear Bombers Preparing to Go Back on 24-Hour Alert
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991...Putting the B-52s back on alert is just one of many decisions facing the Air Force as the U.S. military responds to a changing geopolitical environment that includes North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear arsenal, President Trump’s confrontational approach to Pyongyang, and Russia’s increasingly potent and active armed forces."

Source:
TRUMP’S ATTORNEY WAS SET TO TESTIFY ON WEDNESDAY
Senate Intel Postpones Testimony by Cohen
2 days ago
THE LATEST
AMENDMENT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED CONSIDERATION
Senate Rejects Effort to Nix SALT Tax Changes
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."

Source:
INTERVIEWED BY COMMITTEE STAFF
Lewandowski Meets with Senate Intelligence Committee
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on Capitol Hill for a closed-door interview with the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lewandowski is the latest senior official in Trump's orbit who has met with the committee as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign."

Source:
FISHING EXPEDITION
Some Members Seek to Wrap Up Russia Investigations by Year’s End
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"A growing number of key Republicans are sending this message to the leaders of the congressional committees investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians: Wrap it up soon. In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login