Akon Lighting Africa
The Akon Lighting Africa initiative is a project aimed at tackling the lack of access to electricity in rural parts of Africa. The initiative is designed to promote sustainable growth, starting by providing solar power through a micro grid system far from other existing grids.
According to Akon and his partners, over 600 million Africans don’t have access to electricity. The finances to build industry haven’t been there, but more importantly, the infrastructure is completely absent. The players in this initiative are: Akon, Thione Niang and Samba Bathily. Akon and Thiore grew up together in Kaolack, Senegal, a town with no electricity. Remembering what it was like to live a “life with no light” is what they say drives their commitment to the project. Samba, an entrepreneur from Mali who specialized in solar energy, was able to provide targeted solutions through his company, Solektra International. Solektra supplies the equipment used in Akon Lighting Africa.
The initiative was launched in February of 2014 with a goal of electrifying 1 million homes by the end of that year. According to an Aljazeera interview in February 2015, Akon says that they’ve since electrified more than 1 million homes and were then in 14 west and central African countries. Currently, they operate in 15 countries with 480 communities served. Although much of the media focus for this project is on lighting households, the project provides many more benefits.
- Students can study longer and learn more
- Time saved from charging tech devices elsewhere
- Light in the communities allowing shops to be open longer
- Safer at night
- Many jobs created since everything is locally run in each community
- Engineers to install and maintain the equipment
- Raw Material suppliers, Equipment Manufactures, Distributors work increased
- Teachers needed to teach people about solar energy
- Contractors to build schools to teach about solar energy
- People who inspect geography and topography for areas to install soar paneled equipment
- Less health risk with solar opposed to kerosene lamps and also less expensive
- Community shops, vendors activity increased
- Ability to play sports at night or have other night activities
Although a lengthy list, there are many more impacts we cannot see necessarily on the surface or are able to measure per say.
Another component to Akon Lighting Africa is their Solar Academy being built in Mali. Having an academy focused solely on the advancement of this technology, while specifically tailoring it to their own land and their own people, will be of great benefit for the longevity of this project. This is what makes this project sustainable and on such a grand scale. Not only are they actually installing a high volume of solar panels and streetlights, they’re also teaching the youth how to maintain and improve them in the future! These gentlemen are truly brilliant for this idea. Their thoroughness while planning is what shows the strength of the organizations programs. Someone can have their house newly electrified with this energy, and then have their child study to get into the solar academy because of the new light in their house. Finally, they can become an engineer and design or maintain equipment used or teach new students the ropes.
Financially speaking, Akon is a well-known hip-hop and R&B icon in the United States. Akon owns many nightclubs and also a diamond mine in South Africa. His other partners include: Solektra, Give1 Project, ADS Global Corporation, CJI and Sumec. With the cost per-village being roughly $75k, these men have the capital to support this endeavor. However, although the funds are important upfront, the ability for the local community to maintain the equipment after being educated about it will remain critical for success.
Original article –
“Akon Talks to Folly.” Al Jazeera America. N.p., 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 22 March 2016.
Secondary information –
“Akon Lighting Africa | Solar Power Initiative.” AKON LIGHTING AFRICA. N.p., Feb. 2014. Web. 22 March 2016.
Lelinwalla, Mark. “Akon’s Solar Power Initiative Aims To Bring Electricity To 600 Million People In Africa.” Tech Times RSS. N.p., 03 June 2015. Web. 22 March 2016.