Rapper’s mission to light up all of Africa

Cliched rappers spend money on bling and cars, but Senegalese-American artist Akon is looking skywards to splash his cash, investing in solar power projects across Africa.

The rapper added Gambia and Cape Verde to his Akon Lighting Africa initiative at the weekend.

His fund already helps populations that struggle to connect to limited or absent national grids in 25 African countries.

The Gambian village of Sareh Pateh, population 4 000, turned on solar street lights for the first time on Sunday night, along with power for a mosque and a pharmacy.

“I want to leave a legacy,” Akon said in the Gambian capital, Banjul.

“Africans work harder in everything and they work harder to live and to sustain themselves.”

Akon, full name Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, spent part of his childhood in a Senegalese village without electricity before settling in the United States. Best known for his singles Locked Up and Smack That, Akon has devoted more of his time in recent years to attending renewable energy conferences and visiting schools to provide adequate lighting to study by.

In Cape Verde on Saturday, the musician met Economy Minister Jose Goncalves and said the poor but stable island nation would be his next investment prospect.

Speaking in the capital, Praia, he said he had identified investment opportunities and hoped to launch a mini-grid solar project when possible. The musician’s visit comes alongside a wider push for solar power on the continent.

Several African nations held a renewable energy summit in Guinea on Saturday to raise funds for 19 projects.

The African Renewable Energy Initiative, launched at the Paris COP21 summit in 2015, aims to bring largescale projects to the continent.

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