Lighting Africa: A Conversation with Akon on Energy Access

Lighting Africa: A Conversation with Akon on Energy Access


– Hi, I am Dr. Alaa Murabit, one of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development
Global Goal Advocates, and I am honored to be
here today with Akon, who is the founder of
Akon Lighting Africa. We’re here in Davos at
the World Economic Forum, and my first question for you is this is your first World Economic Forum. Why did you come, and how
do you feel about it so far? – Actually, yeah, this is
my first visit to Davos. I’ve heard about it a lot. How I feel about it? It’s a little slower than I’m used to. I normally don’t come to
too many forums unless I’m really wanting to be
educated about something. I thought this year was
very, very important due to what’s happening in the world. And also, that Trump was visiting as well. I wanted to be in the mix of
all that action, conversation. Because in order to make change you have to know what’s existing, and there’s a lot of information that we don’t necessarily get, and you have to be in the
tornado to actually feel it. You know what I mean? So, I feel this one would
be probably one of the most important Davos’s ever had. Something just told me that it would be, so I said, I gotta be a part
of it this year, for sure. – And when you came what
was kind of your mission, aside from learning and
seeing what was going on, but, you have a project which
is bringing electricity to millions, hundreds
of millions of people. Was that something that
you wanted to be able to bring to this conversation,
or to see where that could go or who you could be working with? It’s actually something I think that, with the conversations
that would be had here would definitely affect
my project, good and bad, depending on the information I was given or the things that I learn. – Or people you met.
(laughs) – And the people I meet. But ultimately I’m starting to realize just how amazing Davos is,
really, because networking-wise, I think I’ve met all the people I’ve been chasing down
for the last five years. (laughing)
You know what I mean? – Including me, of course. – Of course. So, I’m glad I actually came, and I’m glad I came when I
did because I think, honestly, if had I met them earlier,
before my project had matured, the conversations would be different. – Yeah. – And it actually works out, because I’m more of an action guy. I’m more of an action guy. I’m not really, I don’t
like talking too much. I like to just get it done. So, I think now that we
do have the portfolio and we also have all the stats approved, what we’re capable of,
what we’ve been doing, and the impact that we’ve been
causing throughout Africa, we’re able to be able to
utilize that to kind of get some real partners that can actually help us make a difference. – Some actual traction. – Absolutely. – So, I think an important question is, what drove you to start
providing electricity to hundreds of millions of people, and how is that connected to the Sustainable Development Goals? – It’s funny you mention
Sustainable Development Goals, because I remember I
was actually at the UN when they first announced it. I looked at it, and my partner Sambo was also there in Chong-yang, and we all said this is
something that we should be really a part of, to help
make that huge impact on it. Ultimately because, around that time, renewable energy was
something that the world kind of shied away from
a little bit too because the oil companies are making
so much money right now off of traditional oil solutions. Ultimately, it was something
that we knew would be a battle. I like challenges. But more so than anything, the reason why I personally
got in it was because I just looked at the continent of Africa and the need for electricity there. How the Development Goals would affect it, I guess we determined as we
went on, but I think then, that the fact the Development
Goals had matured more, people talked taking them more seriously. All the pledges we had made, a lot of people actually started moving and actually completing those pledges. It also made my job easier for
what I wanted to do as well. So, I definitely commend
the Development Goals for creating the initiative
that actually made people start thinking that renewable
solutions have to be thought about in the future
for us to be able to be stable. – Having a political framework
that you could actually build communications and relationships on.
– One hundred percent. – So I think an important question is, for those who don’t know,
what is your project? What is Akon Lighting Africa? What are you committed to? What are you dedicated to? And what’s the endgame? What’s the goal? – Got it. So, Akon Lighting Africa is actually one part of a full ecosystem. The whole world is ALA, starting
with Akon Lighting Africa. Ultimately, the goal
was to develop Africa, from lights and energy to
infrastructure, to education, health– excuse me. Education, health, infrastructure, lights, and ultimately just
empower the people there. So, before you get to even start anything you have to start with electricity, because without electricity
you can’t even move. Then our next goal coming from here, we actually added education
within our light system. Which covered the education part, which will be Akon Teaching Africa. Ultimately, that will be
an initiative that we’ll be launching very soon while
we’re building universities and small elementary
and junior high schools all throughout Africa at a
U.S. and Europe standard. Not more so a kid as in having to walk 5, 7 miles a day just to get basic education. And when they get there, they have limited amount of equipment and books, and the roof is leaking when it’s raining. You want kids to be able to learn under very comfortable environments. Agriculture, we’re putting it together. Apps and digital technologies,
new fertilizing inventions, and so on and so forth to allow them to become better farmers. Give them new revenue
models that allow them to be able to make real good money off of it, more like suppliers rather than workers, and creating a sustainable
system for them, on that level. As far as infrastructure,
we’re building cities, literally building cities. We’re working out new structures that we’re building in Senegal,
a huge city in Jumiaju, which will be equivalent to something that you would see in Dubai,
Abu Dhabi or Qatar. We want to be able to utilize
all these new foundations, all these new partnerships, all these new resources
of financial institutions that’s wanting to be a part, and we all utilize these things to kind of fulfill the whole goal,
so when it’s all over, it’s a full infrastructure
that’s being built. We’re starting with energy. And starting with the rural areas where they don’t have
no lights whatsoever. – And where people, once
they get the education, can actually get the job,
can actually have the income, can actually enjoy the lifestyle– – One hundred percent. – So, my question for
you then is what has been the impact so far of Akon Lighting Africa? We’ve heard incredible things
about the past five years. But for you, aside from the numbers, the hundreds of millions of
people who now have electricity, for you, what’s been the personal impact? – Man, the personal impact
is just seeing the people. I mean, their demeanor. You could tell the confidence
level has gone completely up. We visited villages from the beginning, and then revisit after the
implication of the system. And the lights and
everything that we’ve added, you can just see the difference in people, how they even wanna take care
of everything around them. The village is looking more modern because they’re creating these. You know, now they have the
tools to actually create the things that they
need that’s necessary. – Well, thank you everyone for joining us, and you can tweet at #SDGLive and follow along at SDGLive.org. Thank you very much Akon. – You’re welcome.


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