At this year’s Powering Africa Summit, American-Senegalese rapper and social-entrepreneur, Akon took to the stage to talk about Akon lighting Africa and his goal of improving quality of life across the continent by providing electricity to millions of Africans using solar energy. The project launched in 2014 in partnership with Samba Battily and Thione Niang and is already providing electricity to more than a dozen countries in West Africa including, Senegal, Mali, and Niger.

Samba Battily, Akon and Thione Niang in Niger.

Samba Battily, Akon and Thione Niang in Niger. (courtesy: Akon Lighting Africa)

As an energy advocate for people in rural Africa, Akon has travelled the world to share his message.

“When I kind of evaluate energy issues, energy problems that we have in Africa now, I started to realize that the biggest problem in Africa is not more or so energy, it’s grid. Grid is the biggest problem in Africa because without the grid, you can’t build airports, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, none of that so you cant expect a country to grow without the basic business necessities that helps economies grow in the first place. “

The Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum selling artist has partnered with several organizations and governments to expand his project throughout the continent. He says his future plans include building ‘solar academies’ that will educate young Africans on how to use energy technologies to build stronger communities.

“We partner up with a few universities and a couple technicians, couple brainiacs, quality control from countries in Europe, here in the United States, Germany and China and it’s a full collective effort to come up with the most affordable mini grid that will fix the solution up until the point where either the grid catches up or renewable advances to the point where these major projects won’t be needed.”

By working with local governments, Akon Lighting Africa and Solektra International say they will provide these countries the resources they need  to develop sustainable energy programs.

“We were able to acquire a billion dollar credit line that allowed us to work with the local government and adjust whatever their energy budget was for that particular year, combine it into a 3 to 5 years term and kind of package a full out project that would impact millions of people in their community or country and then have and them pay it out within 3 to 5 years.”

Akon lighting Africa inauguration in rural Senegal

Akon lighting Africa inauguration in rural Senegal (courtesty: Akon lighting Africa)

As of today, Akon Lighting Africa and Solektra International have installed more than 100,000 street lights in 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and opened the first Solektra Solar Academy in Bamako, Mali to train 200 skilled workers, technicians and engineers.

“We’re building more solektra internationals around, more solar universities that will help the locals to maintain, install all these equipment’s. So you know, the key at the end of the day clearly is unity. It’s us all coming together because this is not a solution that one solution is going to be able to fix.”

Recently, the team partnered with Power Africa, an initiative by President Barack Obama to, “help map the way for project investment, give a platform to global investment funds and showcase the role they can play in driving forward the development of Africa’s power sector.”

Powering Africa Summit 2016

Power Africa and Akon at this years Powering Africa Summit

While Akon has spoken to global leaders at venues around the world, including the United Nations, he says changes in local attitudes are what will be necessary for his project to succeed and bring efficient, affordable electricity to millions more in Africa.

“Because the mind state of Africans have to change and it’s not about getting out of Africa to make it, it’s about staying in Africa to build it.”