China’s influence in Africa is growing at an unprecedented rate. Both the Chinese government and its citizens are investing in Africa at a rate never seen in the history of the continent. So far in 2016, Chinese private investors have poured over $14 billion into Africa.
The new shift of African governments towards China has motivated many Africans to woo Chinese investors to do business on the continent. Many prominent Africans, both home and in the diaspora, are making frantic efforts to get the best deal from China to benefit the continent.
In 2015, the Senegalese-American R&B hip hop recording artist, Aliaune Damala Bouga, popularly known on stage as Akon, launched a mega-solar project aimed at providing electricity to some 600 million Africans. Akon was born in St. Louis, in the United States, but spent much of his childhood in the West African country of Senegal, the birth place of his parents.
The songwriter and record producer named the project “Akon Lighting Africa.” The project is headquartered in the Malian capital, Bamako in West Africa.
The project started running immediately after it was launched last year. It has been structured in an academy form. African engineers and entrepreneurs interested in solar energy are developing their skills to enable them to produce solar power by themselves.
Foreign solar experts are providing technical support to help African participants master the technology being used in the project. In the beginning of the project, Akon and his partners made it clear that once the Africans acquire the needed skills to manage the project, it will be left for them to take care of it. Akon is running the project in collaboration with Thione Niang, a Senegalese political activist, and Samba Bathily, a Malian entrepreneur and Chief Executive Officer of the solar energy company, Solektra International.
Although Akon had the backing of these two Africans, what he never mentioned was the China connection in the project. In fact, Akon’s Chinese support is making a big difference, ensuring that many Africans have access to renewable electricity.
Akon has now revealed that he took money from Chinese investors to help his ambitious project. During a recent interview with Vlad TV, Akon reflected his hope of bringing electricity to the people of Africa. Vlad TV is one of the world’s leading sources of celebrity interviews.
It was during the interview that Akon revealed that at the start of the Lightning Africa project, he took up to $1 billion from Chinese investors to help the project.
“So I went to China. I met up with some friends out there, some manufacturers, and aligned myself with one of the biggest companies in China that’s owned by the Chinese Government, that manufactures Solar,” Akon said.
Akon said tax on solar energy is expensive in the United States. He stated that former president George W. Bush deliberately made solar and other renewables expensive, in order to de-motivate people from exploring renewables sources. Akon said: “He did it because his main agenda was in oil, he needed the oil to keep burning right, so anything renewable he wanted to keep away because if effected the money.”
According to Akon, the $1 billion Chinese credit has immensely helped the solar project soar. He expressed his gratitude to all those who helped him with securing the Chinese money. Akon also talked about his African background, remembering how he grew up without electricity, something he now believes everyone should have access to.
As we speak today, although the project is only a year old, a wide range of quality solar solutions, including street lamps, domestic and individual kits have been installed in some 15 African countries.
As a result, a number of households, villages, community houses, schools and health centers located in rural areas have been granted electricity for the first time in their lives. This has also created employment for the local youth in these rural communities. The installation of the solar equipment and it maintenance are done by the local youth.
In a June 2016 visit to a village in Niger by the Akon Lighting Africa team, an excited local resident told the team: “Now I can recharge my phone at home, I do not have to walk for hours or to pay for that.”
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