Akon’s Solar Academy is Lighting up the World

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Music star Akon knows first-hand the feeling of growing up without electricity. This is why the Senegal-born rapper is taking action to address the current energy crisis in Africa and other countries with the Akon Lighting Africa initiative.

The problem

Electricity in Africa is unaffordable, unreliable and largely inaccessible for most people. Lack of electricity means that students must ‘race the sun’ to do their homework before dark, African businesses are forced to have shorter opening hours and medical clinics are unable to refrigerate vital vaccines; all of which serves to trap people in a continuous cycle of poverty and disease.

Even while Africa has a plethora of energy resources, most of them remain untapped beneath the ground. Possible solutions include expansion of existing utility companies and increased cross-border power trading, but funds are limited and progress to date has been painfully slow.

The solution

Akon Lighting Africa is a program designed to provide Africa with access to a clean, affordable source of electricity through solar power. In less than two years, this initiative has seen the introduction of a series of solar developments, including solar powered street lamps and domestic and community kits in many countries throughout Africa.

Akon’s two partners in Akon Lighting Africa are entrepreneur Thione Niang and businessman Samba Bathily. These two helped convince Akon that he could make a real difference to the future of Africa by harnessing his celebrity status – the international music star has 52.5 million Facebook followers and 5.8 million Twitter followers.

The partnership between the three has led to the establishment of Solektra International, a company investing in driving growth and employment throughout Africa and other countries, as well as Solektra Solar Academy, a training centre set to open in 2016 dedicated to solar technologies.

Solektra International

Founded by Samba Bathily, Solektra is the business arm of the Akon Lighting Africa initiative and its main business currently is installing solar street lamps through government contracts and tenders. To date, 100,000 street lights have been installed across Africa, with each light costing between $800 and $3,000.

To encourage participation in the initiative, Bathily has negotiated a deal with Solektra’s Chinese suppliers for a $1 billion line of credit, which allows governments in Africa to pay for the cost of installation over several years.

The Solektra Solar Academy

Solar power is not new to Africa. Various private companies have been working on installing solar lighting for a number of years. But the problem has always been that they have come in, installed the lights and then left, leaving the solar installations to deteriorate and fail over time.

Akon and his partners realised there was a lack of skilled local people who could repair and maintain these systems. And so the Solektra Solar Academy was born. Opening its doors in 2016, this unique centre will train up to 200 skilled workers each year, including technicians and engineers from all over Africa.

Courses lasting from two weeks to 3 months will focus on issues such as the development of decentralised rural electrification systems. It will teach locals to design, install and repair solar systems for the continent.

The future

After providing more than 600 million people with electricity in homes across Africa, Akon and his partners are now setting their sights on bringing solar electricity to poor communities in different countries within Africa and around the world. Ten new African countries have been earmarked for solar development and opportunities have also been identified in Asia and Latin America.

Meetings have been held with local government officials in Brazil about bringing solar-powered electricity to poor communities there. And a post on Akon’sInstagram page sums up the rapper’s passion for his newfound calling, ‘Akon Lighting Africa has now expanded! We are now in Latin America creating the new initiative ‘Akon Lighting Latin America!! Clean energy for all!’

If you’d like to find out more about the Akon Lighting Africa initiative, visit the website atwww.akonlightingafrica.com