Last year, Rapper, singer, (owner of the record company that brought us Lady Gaga) and entrepreneur Akon partnered with “, Thione Niang, a Sengalese political activist and Samba Bathily, a Malian entrepreneur and CEO of the solar energy company Solektra International,” to provide solar power to the African continent. After striking a $1 billion business credit line deal funded by “China Jiangsu International Group, and distributed by the pan-African bank Ecobank”, Akon Lighting Africa Company has been able to provide electricity to 16 million African residents.
The key to their venture is employing Africans. "What happens usually is that when people come to do business in Africa, they bring the expertise with them but they also bring the workers, and once they’re done they’re gone,” Niang explained. “That’s why many cities in Africa have a lot of solar lights but after three years none of them work and nobody is there to maintain them. So we thought it was important to train the young Africans in the local areas. And it’s important to give jobs to young people.”
The company has already “made deals with the governments of 16 African states and aim to be operating in 25 by the end of next year.” They are currently awarding scholarships to young Africans in engineering, construction, and project management with the belief graduates will become trained and effectively grow their business. The three founders believe Africa is on the cusp of a solar power boom and want to be at the forefront, leading the world into the next era of clean energy.
In a country where oil is king, it is fantastic seeing a continent focused on creating alternative fuel sources. Solar is a major renewable source and if Akon Lighting Africa Company can create a profitable business model surrounding it, they will change the international market of fuel. The organization also has a base in Latin America, so the possibility of growth is exceptional.