December 28, 2020

Singer Akon is raising $6B to build a real-life Wakanda straight out of the movie ‘Black Panther’

[The Hill]

Local community members are wary.

Story at a glance

  • The Senagalese American singer Akon has proposed a $6 billion project to build a futuristic city.
  • The site is in the middle of Ngueniene, a municipality containing several villages in Senegal.
  • Several local leaders have expressed uncertainty over the plans as questions remain.
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There’s a parking garage for flying cars planned for Akon City, which are to be purchased using the new cryptocurrency “Akoin.”

But the plans for Akon’s $6 billion project have raised as many, if not more, questions than answers for those already living in Ngueniene, the municipality in Senegal where the singer is planning the site.

“Akon came to meet us. He said he’ll do this. It could be real or not real – but I think it’s real,” Magueye Ndao, mayor of Ngueniene, told Reuters, which spoke to local leaders about the project. “We welcome this project with open arms and pray that everything Akon told us will be realised.”

The St. Louis-born, Senegalese American singer behind Akon Lighting Africa has made many promises for what the website describes as “the beacon of innovation and human development”

Paul Martin, director of the project at KE International, told Reuters that $4 billion of the $6 billion budget has been secured from a number of investors, including Kenyan businessman Julius Mwale. Designed by Dubai-based architect Hussein Bakri, who is Lebanese, the plans are ambitious, and not everyone shares Ndao’s optimism. 

“During the 15 years or so that I worked at APIX, I saw proposals from people who wanted to make cities all over,” Xavier Ricou, an architect and former director of Senegal’s agency for promoting investment and major projects, told Reuters, adding that most were abandoned due to inadequate funding, changes in government and other reasons. 

Meanwhile, others in the community have expressed uncertainty and concern that jobs won’t be equally distributed.

“The studies that were done were not in collaboration with the commune of Ngueniene,” Pape Massama Thiaw, a counselor and president of the youth commission for Ngueniene, told Reuters, referencing environmental and social impact studies conducted ahead of the project. “I don’t want us to be just day [laborers]. We have to be among the managers.”  

Martin told Reuters the American engineering and consulting firm leading the project will build colleges to train locals in new skills and ensure 90 percent of jobs go to locals.

“Since the project is not 100% led by the commune of Ngueniene, there are bound to be fears and worries about it,” Thiaw told Reuters. “Up until now there have been no problems. The problems will arise the moment his promises are not kept.”  

By Anagha Srikanth

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