By Victor Ochieng
During a recent interview with Vlad TV, singer Akon discussed his hope of bringing electricity connection to 600 million people across the African continent.
It’s in the same interview that the “Lonely” singer acknowledged that he didn’t have the financial muscle to jumpstart the project alone, compelling him to seek backing from other sources. The 43-year-old music producer and R&B star revealed that he sought aid from Chinese investors.
“So I went to China,” Akon explains. “I met up with some friends out there, some manufacturers, and aligned myself with one of the biggest companies in China that’s owned by the Chinese Government, that manufactures Solar…”
In the process of working to have the project kick off, Akon realized that the taxation around Solar Energy was too much, owing to George W. Bush policies. “He did it because his main agenda was in oil, he needed the oil to keep burning right, so anything renewable he wanted to keep away because if effected the money,” the singer says of Bush policies.
He, therefore, had to make use of unused solar products and the $1 billion Chinese credit line so as to get the project rolling.
Akon also talked about his African background, mentioning how he grew up without electricity, something he now believes everyone should have access to. He grew up in Senegal, a country located on the West coast of Africa. There was neither electricity nor running water where he lived and so they had to rely on a well.
“When I came to the United States, and [saw] the projects or what they claimed to be projects, Vlad I thought they [were] living in luxury, compared to what poverty is back home…” Akon explained, noting that U.S. citizens have a lot more than other people around the world yet many take such things for granted.
The singer said that it’s his grandmother’s living condition that inspired him to start the project. He says his grandmother declined to move from her hometown in spite of his money and fame. She was living in a house without electricity.
“Every time I would come, I would try to upgrade her, but she would never take it… one day I said ma I’m not coming to visit you anymore… you have to at least let me put electricity in the house. Come to find out the grid was so far out; I don’t care how much money I had there was no way I could bring electricity to her.” And that’s the moment it hit him that something needed to be done, not just for her grandmother, but also in other locations across Africa where people live without electricity. “Without electricity, you can’t even begin to develop a country, let alone your own home,” he says.
So far, the initiative has provided electricity to 16 million people across 15 countries.