Watch: Akon Talks Lighting Up Africa for 600 Million People on CNN

Akon Lighting Africa

Akon Lighting Africa (via dagency/Lighting Africa)

Senegalese-American pop star Akon spoke to CNN about his major sustainable energy initiative in Africa on Sunday (video above).

Co-founded by leader Thione Niang and entrepreneur Samba Bathil, the ambitious project will bring affordable electricity to 600 million people in 11 countries, starting with Mali.

The singer says that he was partially motivated to act after realizing how many foregin development contracts were underway, but producing very little progress throughout the continent.

“I realized Africa would have to be built by Africans themselves,” he told CNN from Morocco. “That we would have to create a generation of doers and people that would actually make a difference, so ultimately I decided to start with myself.”

Akon Lighting Africa will extend to Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Niger, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Benin and Congo.

As in Mali, each country will have a Solar Academy that trains local citizens to install and maintain the infrastructure. The solar panels provide street lights for pubic lighting and a pre-paid home service system.

Surpassing its original goal to get electricity into 1 million homes, Akon says that the biggest challenge was getting all parties on the same page because “in the beginning, everyone thought this was a foundation/philanthropic movement. But it was actually a for-profit business that would allow locals to be in the position to be occupied and to able to feed their families. So we wanted to provide jobs in every area. We figured Africa was tired of all the charity so how about we give them jobs and let them feed themselves.”

Check out Akon Lighting Africa’s impact thus far in the video below, and learn more about the project at