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.
Printed August 4, 2014- Source: http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/akon-is-pushing-solar-power-in-africa-20140804
Akon is a R&B and hip hop recording artist, songwriter, and record producer. He rose to prominence in 2004 following the release of “Locked Up”, the first single from his debut album Trouble.
He has since founded two successful record labels, Konvict Muzik and Kon Live Distribution. His second album, Konvicted received three nominations for the Grammy Awards in two categories, Best Contemporary R&B Album for Konvicted album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Smack That” and “I Wanna Love You”.
He is the first solo artist to hold both the number one and two spots simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 charts twice. Akon has had four songs certified as 3x platinum, three songs certified as 2x platinum, more than ten songs certified as 1x platinum and more than ten songs certified as gold in digital sales. Akon has sung songs in other languages including Tamil, Hindi and Spanish. He was listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the #1 selling artist for master ringtones in the world.
Akon often provides vocals as a featured artist and is currently credited with over 300 guest appearances and more than 35 Billboard Hot 100 songs. He has worked with numerous performers such as Michael Jackson, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Gwen Stefani and many more artists. He has had five Grammy Awards nominations and has produced many hits for artists such as Lady Gaga, Colby O’Donis, Kardinal Offishall, Leona Lewis and T-Pain.
Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010 and 5th in 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa list, in 2011. Billboard ranked Akon No. 6 on the list of Top Digital Songs Artists of the decade.
After having difficulty speaking early in life, experiencing challenges in academic school and struggling financially in his early twenties, Albert Einstein’s curiosity and large brain lead him to be one of the most interesting, influential and world-changing scientists of all time.