Is Akon City the Afro-Futuristic Utopia We’ve Been Waiting For?
In a climate where racial tensions run high and Black Americans and the Diaspora alike contemplate making their home in Africa, has Akon found the Afro-futuristic utopian solution we’re looking for? That’s right, Akon the singer you may know from hits like Smack That or Locked Up has moved from making music to building cities. The Senegalese-American Hip-Hop and R&B recording artist has envisioned a futuristic pan-African city known as Akon City, and it is officially underway. Akon City will be located in Mbodiene, Senegal about 62 miles south of the capital Dakar. The Grammy-nominated artist anticipates this project to provide much-needed jobs to the Senegalese and ultimately serve as a home to those of African ancestry in the Diaspora who feel out of place due to the racial injustice they face outside of Africa.
(Photo Courtesy of Hussein Bakri)
Akon City is positioned to be an African utopian dream, with virtually everything available to its inhabitants. The 2,000-acre waterfront oasis is being designed to serve as a hub for business and tourism. Akon City’s website describes itself as an “extension of the sea into the land with waves diving deep into the roots of each building.” It very much has a Wakanda feel to it with tall, shiny and fluid skyscrapers encompassing the landscape. It will feature its own hospital, police stations, a seaside resort, a tech hub and even a recording studio. Within the city plans is a hotel which will feature rooms with themes of each of the 54 African countries. It will also have a zone dubbed “Senewood” that developers hope will grow into a thriving film industry in Senegal and boast its own cryptocurrency already named Akoin. Residents will be able to use Akoin to pay for the tram, basic utilities, business licenses, and even taxes. If all goes according to plan, this will be the first of many more Akon-branded smart cities throughout Africa.
(Photo: Bakri & Associates Development Consultant)
Akon explained his vision for the project, offering an alternate solution to the struggles faced by Black Americans. “I wanted to build a city or a project like this, that will give them [Black Americans] the motivation that there is a home back home and it’s something they can relate to. That they are familiar with, and it’s something they don’t have to fear and they also have a choice,” he said. He added that the system back home treats Black Americans unfairly in many different ways, and that many feel they have no other choice but to endure the unfair treatment.
Akon was born in the United States to Senegalese parents but spent much of his childhood in the West African country. Senegalese authorities have embraced him as a native son, introducing him by his given name Aliuane Thiam and praising him for choosing to invest in Africa in a time of global financial insecurity. “This is how we show ourselves in Africa, that while COVID-19 makes all the countries of the world doubt the confidence they have in their economy, during this time, a Senegalese, an investor, who could stay in the United States all his life, decides to come and invest in his country,” said Alioune Sarr, Minister of Tourism and Air Transport. He, along with other officials, expressed his admiration and gratitude for such a large investment in Senegal.
The idea for the ambitious project has been a long time coming, as Akon’s business partner and key player Jon Karas revealed. Karas is the President and Co-Founder of Akoin and the CEO and Co-Founder of Akon Legacy Ventures, Akon’s business entity that covers his other pursuits. “Akon City has been a dream and vision of Akon’s for probably more than a decade,” he told Business Insider. “It was just the how and what, and having the team and resources to pull off such a massive undertaking.”
(Photo: Bakri & Associates Development Consultant)
Akon could hardly contain his excitement as he recalled when the idea for the project emerged. “When this project came about that was actually before the movie (Black Panther). But when the movie came it was almost like a blessing, almost like God allowed this movie to be successful for me to get compared to such success to give people that mind state that this can be possible in Africa,” Akon said. The movie also served as an inspiration from an architectural standpoint, to provide the city with a futuristic feel. The surrealist, water-like designs of Akon City will be built out of lightweight steel and glass that generate energy and are inspired by forms of traditional African art found in villages across the continent from the beginnings of Africa’s ancient history. Many have compared Akon City to Wakanda, the fictional technologically advanced African kingdom in which the blockbuster record-breaking movie Black Panther was based in. It is a big honor for Akon, especially after the recent loss of Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer, the iconic and beloved actor who served as the superhero Black Panther in the film.
It was a celebratory kickoff as the first phase of the $6 billion project is set to begin in 2021. A third of the financial investment has already been secured by investors not yet identified due to non-disclosure agreements. However, the project largely depends on the backing of a single investor who has a history of lawsuits on file regarding unpaid debts. And while many prominent people involved in the city’s development, including Akon, have promoted the city as a future job generator for locals, none were able to lay out a plan for how locals would benefit from the construction of the new city.
This isn’t the first time Akon has invested in Africa. As he transitioned from making Hip-Hop and R&B hits to becoming a tech entrepreneur in Africa, Akon has initiated a few endeavors. He created a solar-power company (Akon Lighting Africa) followed by his own cryptocurrency and also owns a diamond mine in South Africa. “One of my biggest fears was just being known for singing and dancing,” Akon said. But if all goes according to plan, Akon will be known for creating the first modern Afro-futuristic utopia.