From Snoop Dog to the United Nations, the internet has been singing the praises of Senegal's golden child Akon and his big philanthropic heart. His "Akon Lighting Africa” initiative promises to “bring” electricity to half a billion Africans across the continent. When you visit his website you see him traveling across Africa, meeting with heads of states and national stake holders in his attempt to have a continent wide celebration for his vision of lifting Africa out of its darkness.
First issue friends, let’s not confuse the term “bringing electricity” with “making free or affordable electricity accessible for those who need it most.” That is NOT what is happening here, Mr. Akon is not a philanthropist, but a business man partnering with Chinese conglomerates to make millions from the governments of countries all across Africa. See, Akon is not giving anything away for free, or cheap. He is essentially the middle man aiding the Chinese government obtain huge government contracts all across Africa.
After securing a credit line of one billion dollars from China Jiangsu International, a state-owned international conglomerate (also a business sanctioned in 2014 under the World Bank's fraud and corruption policy), Akon will essentially sell packages of solar panel electricity technology to African governments. Then here comes the dumb part, the countries will pay an undisclosed amount BACK to China Jiangsu International for the solar panels and services rendered. So where is the philanthropy here, I must be missing something. Basically, all Akon is doing is being the face that will get African governments to buy into this new way of providing electricity in their countries via Chinese funds and technology. Akon isn’t really contributing anything but face-time to this initiative, he is a cross-continental door to door salesman selling privatized Chinese innovations that will put African governments further into debt.
Akon is selling empty dreams of African solutions to African problems. He is the mascot for a new wave of the Chinese take over, a facilitator in a new wave of neo-imperialism hiding behind the mask of "philanthropy."