International pop star Akon, who has achieved fame and fortune as a chart topping rap star in the US, is now seeking to combine his profile with solar technology to broaden access to electricity by fronting a company that is establishing the infrastructure and skills to take solar power to isolated communities in his African heartland.
Through Akon Lighting Africa (ALA), Akon also known as the 'Smack That' artist, alongside African co-founders Samba Bathily and Thione Niang and a number of industrial partners, is seeking to capitalise on Africa's average of 320 days of sun a year by rolling out off-grid and affordable solar technologies.
With projects already up and running in 11 different countries in the continent including Mali, Sierra Leone and Senegal, the priority is to target isolated communities far away from capital cities.
Ranging from street lamps to domestic and individual solar kits, the existing projects have drawn on the support of Chinese trade body China Jiangsu International, engineering firm SUMEC and electricity specialist NARI along with a number of African governments to roll out the power projects.
Akon recently opened a 'Solar Academy' in Mali with the aim of pioneering advances in solar technology by educating engineers who will bring electricity to rural parts in Africa.
"We expect the Africans who graduate from this center to devise new, innovative, technical solutions. With this Academy, we can capitalize on Akon Lighting Africa and go further" said Thione Niang, one of the co-founders of the project.