By: Dagny Zenovia
“Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.” A quote from Shuri, a character in the Black Panther movie, rings true today as the idea of Wakanda might become a reality. Akon first announced plans for this in 2018. As the public learns more details about the development and construction of Akon City, questions and concerns over the funding of this project are rising. Evidence and rumors are swirling online about China funding Akon City. Even with the facts, the bigger question is how funding influences the project and whether such a project is really possible in Africa.
Akon City Is Coming To Senegal
Akon City is a futuristic, cryptocurrency themed city, which will be developed in Senegal, West Africa. Akon, the Senegalsese-American singer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, recently announced that he secured a $6 billion contract to build Akon City. The contract was awarded to KE International, a U.S. based engineering firm. Construction will be done in two phases. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. This will include roads, a Hamptons Hospital campus, a Hamptons Mall, residences, hotels, a police station, a school, a waste facility, and a solar power plant. Phase 2 is expected to run from 2024 to 2029. Dubai based Bakri & Associates Development Consultants will lead the architectural designs under KE International’s guidance.
So far, it has been reported that the investors behind Akon City are leaders in healthcare and technology infrastructure, including Julius Mwale, US based Kenyan entrepreneur and investor. He is the founder of MMTC, a green city in Kenya currently being built.
Cryptocurrency In Africa
The city plans to exclusively use the Akoin cryptocurrency. It is built on the Stellar payment network. According to the Akoin website, it is designed to “fuel rising entrepreneurs in Africa and beyond” plus plans to be used as “a common medium of transfer between Africa’s 54 countries.” The Akoin Foundation plans to provide programs in education, ambassadors, business incubation, community networks, and activations. Akoin will also be used in Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC), a green city in Kenya that is also being built by KE International and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
General consensus is still developing on whether or not cryptocurrency will be successful in Africa. Some look at stats to illustrate the potential market. Over 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years old, do not have a bank account, and rely heavily on mobile phones for almost everything. Others propose that a crypto economic system can solve consumer and financial challenges. Akoin wallet plans to allow users to trade between cryptocurrencies, fiat currencies, and mobile minutes without going through a major exchange.
China And Akon
Regarding Chinese investment, the only facts that have been reported are referring to a $1 billion backing from Chinese investors for Akon’s Africa Lighting Initiative, now named Lighting Africa. While Akon was working to get that project off the ground, he found challenges with the amount of taxation that surrounds solar powered energy. As a result, he did seek aid from Chinese investors to get the project off the ground. Lighting Africa, which began its first projects in 2009, has enabled 28.8 million people across Africa to meet their basic electricity needs through off-grid solar products. It currently operates in 25 African countries and is part of the World Bank Group’s contribution to Sustainable Energy For All.
The answer to the question as to whether China is funding Akon City has yet to be officially confirmed. As details continue to develop, this is an opportunity to better understand how investors work and what Africans should be aware of regarding investments throughout Africa. When it comes to Chinese investments in Africa, we should ask who in China is investing. If it is the Chinese government, that could cause some concern and would require more answers and transparency. If it is private Chinese investors, that could be an opportunity for more progress, even though it would still require more answers and transparency. Remember, with both options, investors do not invest in things that will not work. If it turns out there is a Chinese investor included, it could also mean that Akon City and a crypto economy is possible in Africa.
What do you think? Is China funding Akon City? Will Akon City succeed? Can Akoin and cryptocurrency work in Africa?