622m Africans Lack Electricity
Unveils Akon Lighting Africa Initiative

Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Akon says being a successful entertainer has given him a platform to pursue his dream of helping Africa grow and prosper.

The performer, songwriter and producer was born in the U.S. of Senegalese parents and reared in both countries. He started an initiative called “Akon Lighting Africa” two years ago with a goal of bringing electricity to a million homes by the end of 2014.

He told a U.N. news conference recently on promoting clean energy that the initiative not only achieved that but has spread to 14 African countries.Akon, born Aliaune Thiam, said the biggest obstacle to Africa’s growth is the need for infrastructure and energy.

That’s why he launched “Akon Lighting Africa” with two partners and a credit line of $1 billion, he said. It now employs over 5,000 mainly young people who install and maintain solar equipment.”To be able to facilitate the needs of millions of people in Africa, has always been a dream of mine,” Akon said.

“Our main goal and initiative is to become the key tool to help Africa’s growth, utilising the youth of Africa to be the main catapults of making that happen.”With more than a dozen Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including “Smack That,” ”I Wanna Love You” and “Locked Up,” Akon said he realised that as an entertainer he has a big audience and is in a position to
influence them.

“I think ultimately … where God allows you to speak to a billion people you always ask yourself, when you get a chance of that nature, what will you say? What is your purpose?,” Akon said.”I felt that entertainment was always the key that would open the door to bigger and better things in my life and I can be able to pass on with a legacy, and my name can ring towards development of a full (African) continent.”

The Akon Lighting Africa InitiativeAs the second United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum (SE4A) paid tribute in its closing session to the progress generated by the Akon Lighting Africa initiative, its founders Akon, Thione Niang and Samba Bathily were already looking to the future and next steps.

They have just announced the creation of a “Solar Academy” to develop skills and expertise in this field in Africa. This professional training center of excellence is a first on the continent and targets future African entrepreneurs, engineers and technicians. It will open its doors this summer in Bamako, Mali and welcome any Africans wanting to help develop the use of solar power.

This project is being introduced under the patronage of Solektra international, a partner of Akon Lighting Africa, in collaboration some European experts who will supply training equipment and programs.

It aims to reinforce expertise in every aspect of installing and maintaining solar-powered electric systems and micro-grids in particular, which are really taking off in rural Africa.

With its 320 days sunshine a year, the continent is perfectly suited to the development of solar power, particularly since 622 million Africans still do not have access to electricity.“We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities. We now need to consolidate African expertise and that is our objective” explained Samba Bathily at the SE4All. “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” he added.

With 70% of the population aged under 35, Africa is the continent with the youngest population today. One of the biggest challenges it faces is training and creating sustainable employment.

“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,” Thione Niang said. Indeed, Akon Lighting Africa adopted a sustainable business model from the outset – providing training and creating jobs enabling local populations to embrace technical solutions and become self-sufficient. The Solar Academy will help to ex-tend this business model and promote inclusive growth throughout.