R&B singer Akon is officially moving ahead with his plans to build a futuristic pan-African city in his native Senegal that he previously likened to the fictional city of Wakanda from the movie “Black Panther.”
On Monday, Akon announced that construction on the $6 billion project will begin next year in an effort to help the country’s tourism industry, which--as is happening in many other countries--is ailing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Akon said he hoped his project would provide much-needed jobs for Senegalese and also serve as a “home back home” for Black Americans and others facing racial injustices.
“The system back home treats them unfairly in so many different ways that you can never imagine. And they only go through it because they feel that there is no other way,” he said.
“So if you're coming from America or Europe or elsewhere in the diaspora and you feel that you want to visit Africa, we want Senegal to be your first stop.”
Akon, who was born in the United States to Senegalese parents, spent much of his childhood in the West African country, where only 44 percent of rural households had electricity, even as recently as 2018.
Plans for Akon City include a seaside resort, a technology hub and recording studios. In addition, hospitals, a police station and a university will be constructed as well in an effort to make the city as self-sustaining as possible. Akon even envisions the city having its own cryptocurrency already dubbed the “AKoin.”
The almost surrealist, water-like designs of Akon City were inspired by the shapes of traditional sculptures long made in Africa's villages, he said. However, the gleaming structures of Akon City will be made of metal and glass, not wood.
A hotel within the city plans to feature rooms decorated for each of the 54 nations of Africa. However, the project was designed by a Dubai-based architect because Akon said he couldn't find a suitable one in Africa fast enough. It's also unclear what percentage of the building materials and construction teams will be sourced locally.
According to the New York Post, construction will begin in 2021 on a 2,000-acre parcel of land given to the musician by the Senegalese government. Senegalese authorities have embraced him as a native son, introducing him by his given name Aliuane Thiam and praising him for investing in Africa at a time of such global financial uncertainty.
Tourism Minister Alioune Sarr said Akon's launch comes at a time when private investment is scarce and badly needed. International flights have resumed in Senegal, but at the moment are only for citizens and residents with a few exceptions.
“COVID-19 has sown doubt everywhere. This means that those who had doubts about the attractiveness of Senegal, and Africa in general must convince themselves that there are men and women who believe in Africa,” he said.
Akon revealed that one-third of the $6 billion required to fund the project has already been raised. However, he declined to publicly name his investors, citing non-disclosure agreements. Once construction begins, he notes that it could take up to three years to complete phase one.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.