American R&B singer Akon says construction will begin next year on his $6 billion plan to build a futuristic pan-African city in Senegal. (Photo: AFP)
American R&B singer Akon says construction will begin next year on his $6 billion plan to build a futuristic pan-African city in Senegal.
Akon first announced his idea for the utopian city, dubbed "Akon City", back in 2018. The project has been described as a "real-life Wakanda", comparing it to the technologically advanced fictional African place portrayed in the blockbuster film "Black Panther."
He 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.
On Monday, he traveled with government officials to the grassy fields in Mbodienne some 100 kilometers (62 miles) outside the capital where construction has yet to begin.
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.
Akon said the project already has secured about one-third of the $6 billion needed, but declined to publicly identify his investors, citing non-disclosure agreements. After construction begins in early 2021, the first phase of the project alone could take more than three years, he said.
Akon City is promising a bit of everything: a seaside resort, a tech hub, recording studios and even a zone dubbed "Senewood" that developers hope will help develop Senegal's film industry.
Plans eventually call for Akon City to have its own hospital, police station and even its own cryptocurrency already named AKoin.
Without giving specifics, the singer also said he's considering franchising the concept to other countries on the continent.