R&B superstar Akon, who grew up in Senegal before moving to the States and finding fame with the 2003 smash hits “Smack That” and “Lonely”, has been working on an initiative to bring light to 600 million people living in Africa.
Launched in 2014, Akon Lighting Africa, aims to distribute and install solar-powered solutions to rural communities.
Already 11 countries – Mali, Senegal, Republic of Guinea, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and Kenya – have received life-changing equipment.
Along with his co-founders, Thione Niang and Samba Bathily, the R&B artist is now aiming to reinforce the project with expertise in every aspect of installing and maintaining solar-powered electric systems and micro-grids.
“We are doing more than just investing in clean energy. We are investing in human capital. We can achieve great milestones and accelerate the African transformation process on condition that we start training a new generation of highly qualified African engineers, technicians and entrepreneurs now,” explained Samba Bathily at the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All forum last month.
As part of the initiative, Akon has opened a “Solar Academy” in Mali to educate the engineers.
“We expect the Africans who graduate from this centre to devise new, innovative, technical solutions. With this Academy, we can capitalize on Akon Lighting Africa and go further.”
Meanwhile, an Australian company, Pollinate Energy, has been working towards a similar goal in India, tackling the issue as a business solution and using locals to sell the solar lights in the slums of India.
“You just can’t give away 400 million lights,” says co-founder Kat Kimmorley.
So far the organisation, which sells the lights at a discount, subsidises them with donations, so far installing nearly 9000 systems in 886 communities.
Pollinate Energy says its saved 1.62 million litres of kerosene in the process.
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