The initiative “Akon Lighting Africa” trains local African engineers and entrepreneurs in the production of solar power and will bring solar power to over 600 million Africans.
The African continent holds some of the world’s richest natural resources from stones and gems to the boxite necessary for laptops and smartphones. Still, millions of Africans remain disconnected from electricity and the freedom to work beyond the sun’s light and power. That will all change soon, with the help of acclaimed singer Akon, who recently launched a Solar Academy in Bamako, Mali.
The initiative “Akon Lighting Africa” trains local African engineers and entrepreneurs in the production of solar power and will bring solar power to over 600 million Africans. According to Akon, who is Senegalese-American, the goal is two-pronged: provide clean alternative energy, as well as great, meaningful jobs.
“We’ve actually overachieved. We’re beyond a million households now and are 14 countries,” Akon told Al Jazeera. “We started off creating solar energy in rural areas in households and now we are fitting in streetlamps throughout countries. We’re putting solar in all the countries and employing the locals to keep things in order.”
Founders of Akon Lighting Africa have initiated an aggressive campaign to introduce a broader scale of energy and an expedited deployment. To achieve this, the Akon Lighting Africa initiative involves the installation of three types of solar-powered equipment: public street lighting, solar micro-generators for use by communities and household connection kits.
“In Guinea-Conakry, we have 30,000 street lights there and it is awesome. These are places where at night you could not even drive or walk out at night because you’d have no clue where you were going,” Akon said. “We also have 100,000 home systems in selected villages and are still expanding and that’s just one country,” Akon said.
Akon’s solar panel in Africa initiative was launched in February 2014, via a partnership with entrepreneur Samba Bathily. Among the countries impacted: Senegal, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and Kenya.
“We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities. We now need to consolidate African expertise,” said Baithily. “We are doing more than just investing in clean energy. We are investing in human capital. We can achieve great milestones and accelerate the African transformation process on condition that we start training a new generation of highly-qualified African engineers, technicians and entrepreneurs now.”
Sierra Leone-native Fatu Kabba, of Alexandria, Virginia said Akon’s efforts will have a long-lasting and powerful effect on his country. “There is some power already there, but when you go into the hillside where my grandparents live, you have the night sky and the stars only to light your path,” Kabba said. “When you begin talking about the need for grids to handle digital devices like cellphones and computers that run whenever you want, that is something the younger generation must have in order to compete and succeed globally.”
With 70 percent of the continent’s inhabitants under the age of 35, having access to sustainable energy sources propels many into digital spaces that allow them to interact with the rest of the world and bridge the digital divide in concrete ways.