R&B star Akon recognizes that in many parts of Africa business expansionis not possible and children’s education stifled because there is no ability to getelectricity.
“They’re using kerosene and candles after dark,” he said when talking about his effort to drastically change their plight.
The five-time Grammy nominated artist has launched “Akon Lighting Africa,”a partnership to bring electricity to one million households in Africa by the end of 2014.
“We’re already close (providing electricity) to 200,000 and the movement has just started,” Akon said in an exclusive interview.
He likened “Akon Lighting Africa” to a movement – one that he is encouraging his friends, celebrities, businessmen and others to join.
“In America sometimes,” Akon maintained “the concept of having that opportunity to be able to go back to Africa and invest and be a part of Africa’s growth has been really kind of quiet. This is a way to open everyone’s eyes to do it. I’m utilizing this opportunity and I’m promoting it like I would promote my album or record or anything of that nature.”
Statistics show that more than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity and more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lack access.
The “Right Now” singer is part of a partnership with GIVE1 PROJECT and Solektra International, a member of ADS Group (Africa Development Solutions Group.)
He went on a nine day tour of nine African nations, including Mali, Gabon, Congo and Senegal the country where he was raised – talking passionately aboutthevisit, “We went to the countries that actually needed the electricity in the rural areas that was like desperately in need.”
While in the countries he met with a number of people, including the presidents of those nations.
Akon and his partners have worked out a plan for the financially underdeveloped nations and the people living there to be able to afford the electricity. They’ve entered into an agreement with a company in China that manufactures solar panels.
“We created a system to where we could do a pre-paid systemand the countries can do yearly payments until they pay off the debt,” he said.
He revealed they’ve gotten offers from officials in 10 other African countries that don’t have a highly developed economyto start tours the end of April. He says they too have expressed a willingness to be a part of the electricity initiative.
Given the name AliauneBadara Akon Thiamwhen he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, he spent the first seven years of his life living in Dakar, Senegal– then spent time going between Senegal and the U.S. until he was 15. At15 he permanently moved to the U.S. where he resided in New Jersey.
Music is in Akon’s blood. His father is the renownedSenegalese percussionist MorThiam.
Akon is excited about his new album entitled “Stadium” saying, “I’m more excited about this record than I’ve been around any of my records.”
It is long overdue, he says, because he had hoped to have it out in 2010 during the World Cup.
However, he’s glad there was a delayadmitting, “As I’m becoming a better person my music is also feeling like it’s worth being out in the marketplace.”
Look for a tribute song to the late South African President Nelson Mandela to be released from “Stadium” later this month.
But he did not give a release date for the entire album.
Akon also teamed upwith Lady Gaga’s former choreographer, once known as Laurieann Gibson, now called Harlee. He’s on the pop singer’s new single, “Dream Warriors.”
To learn more about the “Akon Lighting Africa” initiative you can visit www.akonlightingafrica.com.
Reach TenéCroom at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @TcTene.