Akon’s Africa Movement For Light
Cyprus May 30, 2018 (AltAfrika) – While 80% of the world’s population has access to electricity, only 30% of the African population enjoys this benefit. Today, 600 million Africans still don’t have access to electricity, particularly in rural areas.
In far too many parts of Africa, night-time economic activities are practically non-existent. Women cannot make productive use of their time to carry out the most basic household tasks. Children who help the women cannot study at night without proper light and complete their homework by candle light, an additional expense for parents. Moreover, without access to electricity, over 3.5 million Africans die every year from harmful pollutants or fires in the home produced by costly and toxic solid fuels.
To meet these challenges, Akon Lighting Africa seeks to provide a concrete response at grass roots level to Africa’s energy crisis and lay the foundations for future development. Launched in February 2014 by international music star, Akon, leader Thione Niang and entrepreneur Samba Bathily, this initiative aims to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that will provide African villages with access to a clean and affordable source of electricity.
In less than one year, thanks to a private-public partnership model and a well-established network of partners (including SOLEKTRA INT, SUMEC and NARI), a wide range of quality solar solutions, including street lamps, domestic and individual kits, have been installed in 14 African countries.
As a result, a number of households, villages, community houses, schools and health centres located in rural areas have been connected to electricity for the first time ever. Local jobs, primarily for young people, have also been created in these communities, whether for installation of equipment’s or for maintenance.
The highly positive results observed since the start of the project show that a local presence and practical solutions are key to resolving energy issues in Africa. Akon Lighting Africa’s roadmap fully reflects its founding members’ vision for Africa: to deliver concrete results to populations.
Akon and Thione Niang, the co-founders of Akon Lighting Africa both grew up in Kaolack, Senegal, a town without electricity. It is their childhood memories and personal experience of a “life without light” that fuels their commitment.
They began discussing what they could do to actively help drive Africa’s transformation in September 2013 in Washington DC. A few weeks later, they agreed that the top priority was to invest in energy, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas, because this was the essential foundation for everything else – education, health and economic development.
Their plan came to life once they were joined by Samba Bathily, an entrepreneur from Mali specializing in solar energy. Not only did he share Akon and Thione Niang’s beliefs, he was also able to provide targeted solutions through his company, Solektra INT, which supplies solar-powered equipment. By combining their networks and international experience and expertise, the three men launched this ambitious project in February 2014, with a view to supporting African growth as well as the empowerment of African youth.
Since then, the three founders have put everything into the project, negotiating win-win partnerships with African States and continuing to extend this initiative and amplify its impact.
Akon Lighting Africa already operates in about ten countries and is looking for greater expansion across Africa.
Solektra is active in 14 African countries including: Mali; Niger; Senegal; Guinea; Burkina Faso; Sierra Leone; Benin; Guinea Equatorial; Gabon; Republic of Congo; Namibia; Madagascar; Kenya and Nigeria.
Akon Lighting Africa works with local banks and governments to develop public-private partnerships (PPPs) to finance solar projects, for which panels are supplied by Chinese companies. Among Solektra’s Chinese partners are partnerships with Nanjing-based power equipment makers Sumec Group and Nari Group, press reports say.
Akon also readily partners with charities and other funding sources. In Sierra Leone, for example, he has partnered with the Lanyi Foundation and The Healey Foundation.
Solektra offers a range of solar lighting, including the Free Light Sol-SL01A, designed to replace traditional oil lamps in rural off-grid areas that have little or no access to electricity. The product comprises a photovoltaic panel, a lithium battery and LED lighting.
Apart from providing solar lighting and other products, Akon is training workers in solar technology at a school he established in March, in Bamako, Mali. Solektra’s African headquarters also are located in there. France’s Sunna Design is providing some solar lighting products to Solektra, and also is collaborating on a factory in Mali.
Solektra is considering pilot projects in Brazil and India, and has a goal of building a U.S. solar farm, as well.
Akon’s decided to give filling dancefloors a break in favour of bringing solar energy to people living in rural Africa.
The singer has decided to seriously diversify and set up charity Akon Lighting Africa in 2014.
The singer, has recently opened a Solar Academy as part of his effort to bring electricity to 600 million people in rural communities across Africa.
Located in Bamako, Mali. The organisation states that the continent averages 320 days of sunshine a year.
Samba Baithily, who co-founded Akon Lighting Africa with Akon and Thione Niang. Told us: “We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities. We now need to consolidate African expertise.”
“We expect the Africans who graduate from this center to devise new, innovative, technical solutions,” said Niang.
“With this Academy, we can capitalize on Akon Lighting Africa and go further.”
Lighting up Africa to offer a bright future
Lighting up Africa works to:
- Allow school children and students to do their homework and pass their exams.
• Allow shopkeepers, tradesmen and cooks to work and small businesses to expand their activities and revenues.
- Make roads safer and improve the structure of public places in Africa. It helps guarantee the continuity of heathcare services as doctors are able to examine patients after dark.
• Provide a great opportunity for families who will be saved from using pollutant, toxic and costly domestic fuels such as kerosene.
• Ensure better access to information, through the radio, television or computer, and improve communications as the people will be able to recharge mobile phones faster and cheaper.
• Empower the young people of Africa, who account for 70% of the population and who will be responsible for driving growth.
Solutions that promote electrification and development
Electrification: 100,000 street-lamps, 1,000 solar micro-generators and 200,000 household electric systems: all these different solutions were proposed and installed in targeted localities, thus creating direct and indirect jobs mainly for local youth.
→ With an average investment of $75 000 per village, Akon Lighting Africa is playing an increasingly important role in the electrification of Africa.
→ The public-private partnerships established with partners Solektra, Give1 Project, Akon Corp, Huawei, Sumec and Nari, as well as the excellent relations established with a number of Heads of States are encouraging signs for the future of Akon Lighting Africa.
→ Above and beyond this clean and environmentally-friendly energy solution, Akon Lighting Africa also provides employment.
Direct jobs: A network of young people is employed to learn how to install and maintain solar solutions, and to acquire technical expertise.
Indirect jobs: small businesses, cafes, agriculture, evening classes, night transport… with electricity, everything becomes possible. So that their initiative can become a benchmark, the founders of Akon Lighting Africa have started to carefully monitor their activities to quantify the number of indirect jobs created.