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 Wednesday 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, utilizing 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 realized 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.”