Singer Akon going ahead with building ‘real-life Wakanda’

Akon

US R&B singer Akon said in Senegal that construction on a US$6 billion futuristic pan-African city, Akon City, that is described as a “real-life Wakanda”, will begin next year.

Akon, who first announced his idea for the utopian city back in 2018, wants it be like the technologically advanced fictional African place portrayed in the blockbuster film “Black Panther”. Engineering and consulting firm KE International, who built the acclaimed US$2 billion Mwale Medical and Technology City in Butere Sub-county, Kakamega, Kenya, will manage the project. Akon’s AKoin platform will soon offer digital and currency financial services to residents and businesses at MMTC.

Akon City, Akon
An artist’s conception of Akon City. Photo: Hussein Bakri/BAD Consultant/Semer Group

Akon on Monday said he hoped his new city project would provide much needed jobs for people in Senegal and also serve as a “home back home” for Black Americans and others facing racial injustices.

“The system back home treats them unfairly in so many different ways that you can never imagine. And they only go through it because they feel that there is no other way,” he said.

“So if you’re coming from America or Europe or elsewhere in the diaspora and you feel that you want to visit Africa, we want Senegal to be your first stop.”

Akon, who was born in the US to Senegalese parents, spent much of his childhood in the West African country where only 44% of rural households had electricity in 2018. Senegal is home to 15.4 million people, a quarter of whom live in the region of Dakar on 0.3% of the territory, World Bank stated.

Senegalese authorities have embraced him as a native son, introducing him by his given name Aliuane Thiam and praising him for investing in Africa at a time of such global financial uncertainty, Associated Press reported.

Akon travelled with government officials to the grassy fields in Mbodienne, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) outside the capital Dakar where construction has yet to begin.

Tourism Minister Alioune Sarr said Akon’s launch comes at a time when private investment is scarce and badly needed due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. International flights have resumed in Senegal, but at the moment are only for citizens and residents with a few exceptions.

COVID-19 has sown doubt everywhere. This means that those who had doubts about the attractiveness of Senegal, and Africa in general must convince themselves that there are men and women who believe in Africa,” he said.

Akon said the project has secured about one-third of the US$6 billion needed and declined to publicly identify his investors, citing non-disclosure agreements. After construction begins in early 2021, the first phase of the project alone could take more than three years, he said.

The almost surrealist, water-like designs of Akon City were inspired by the shapes of traditional sculptures long made in Africa’s villages, he said. However the gleaming structures of Akon City will be made of metal and glass, not wood.

A hotel within the city plans to feature rooms decorated for each of the 54 nations of Africa. Akon City will feature a seaside resort, a tech hub, recording studios and a zone dubbed “Senewood” that developers hope will help develop Senegal’s film industry.

The singer acknowledged the comparisons made between Akon City and the utopian society in “Black Panther”, calling it an “honour”.

Plans eventually call for Akon City to have its own hospital, police station and to use cryptocurrency AKoin.

Akon rose to fame with his 2004 debut album ‘Trouble’ and his second album ‘Konvicted’ attracted three Grammy nominations. He then founded two successful record labels, Konvict Muzik and KonLive Distribution, but has increasingly focused on development projects in Africa in recent years.

In 2014, he started Akon Lighting Africa, which backs solar energy projects in rural areas. For him the inspiration was deeply personal: he found his grandmother was still using candles in Senegal to light her home.

“It just doesn’t make sense how 20 years can pass by and the condition doesn’t change,” he said back in 2016.

In Mbodienne, hopes are high that this project will change lives even if two-thirds of the funding needed has yet to be secured.

“We have a lot of hope. Many promised us projects, but we saw nothing,” village chief Michel Diom said.

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