Hip hop artist Akon’s grand solar energy plan for Africa

The Grammy-winning artist opens a school to train a new generation of African entrepreneurs and roll out delivery of solar energy.

Akon, the “Smack That” R&B and hip hop artist, is the philanthropist behind an initiative to bring solar energy solutions to millions of homes in rural Africa.

The Senegalese-born Akon co-founded Akon Lighting Africa in 2014 with youth empowerment activist Thione Niang and Samba Batily, CEO of solar energy solutions company Solektra. Since then, the trio have been busy providing clean energy in the form of solar panels, street lights and micro-grids to rural areas in Africa that have no access to electricity.

But it’s their latest project – the Solar Academy in Bamako, Mali, set to open its doors this summer – that is making current international headlines. Akon Lighting Africa announced the big news at the United Nations Second Annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York last month.  

This professional training centre of excellence is a first on the continent and targets future African entrepreneurs, engineers and technicians. It aims to reinforce expertise in every aspect of installing and maintaining solar-powered electric systems and micro-grids.

The academy is a logical progression for the organisation whose ultimate goal, aside from bringing clean energy to 600 million Africans, is to empower African youth and inspire entrepreneurs through job creation and education.

We expect the Africans who graduate from this centre to devise new, innovative, technical solutions, Niang told Reuters.

Both the academy and the solar power installations play a part in Akon Lighting Africa’s grander scheme – to create an entrepreneurial movement on the continent that encourages self-sufficiency and innovation. At the Fifth Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakech last year, Akon elaborated on this idea when he said: “One thing Africa never needed was charity. All we needed was opportunity.”

Photos courtesy of DAGENCY.