In February of 2014, Grammy-nominated R&B/hip-hop singer/songwriter and rapper Akon, political activist Thione Niang and entrepreneur Samba Bathily launched Akon Lighting Africa, an initiative that aims to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that will provide African villages with access to a clean and affordable source of electricity. Now, almost two years later, 100,000 street-lamps, 1,000 solar micro-generators and 200,000 household electric systems have been installed across 14 African countries. The installation of these lights makes public spaces safer, allowing businesses to conduct sales longer, children to study and learn longer and provide jobs for many people who work to install and maintain the lights.
Akon, who is known for his suggestive club anthems, was born in St. Louis but spent most of childhood growing up in West African nation of Senegal. “I was one of those kids you see running around with no shoes on living in straw huts,” Akon said in an interview with the National Journal. “I was blessed to be able to come to the U.S. with my dad and I’ve seen a better life, but it really hurts a lot knowing that Africa has all these resources and we haven’t fully taken advantage of it.”
But Akon, who is also a successful business man and founder of two successful record labels, sees this as an economic opportunity as well. “I get tired of hearing that Africa is a charity case,” Akon mentioned in the same interview. “Africa is wide open for business, and we’ve found a good business model. Africa will never run out of sun.”
Learn more about the musical mogul’s work here.