This Star Aims to Bring More Solar Power to Africa

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It’s always upsetting when celebrities do not really give back to communities in need. Luckily, Senegalese-American singer and producer Akon fully agrees with my sentiment for the need to give back. This summer, his charitable organization, Akon Lighting Africa, will be opening a solar academy that will help bring electricity to over 600 million Africans.

The organization was originally launched in 2004 with his other co-founders, Thione Niang and Samba Baithily. All three men have been known to heavily involve themselves in organizations that promote economic growth and social progress in Africa. Since that time, the organization has also provided solar street lamps and domestic solar panels in over one million households in approximately 14 African countries.

The organization intends to open its solar academy in Bamako, Mali’s capital. Given that the continent sees an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, it’s a more than welcoming environment for solar power. Akon Lighting Africa intends to effectively utilize this sunlight–harnessing solar energy is an ideal way to bring electricity to those without it.

Akon and the other co-founders discuss how necessary sustainable jobs are in Africa. Approximately seventy percent of the population is under 35, making Africa the continent with the youngest average population. To them, investing in solar power for the future can help in more ways than one. Thione Niang stated:

The academy will aim to teach people how to install and maintain solar-powered electricity systems as well as micro grids which are really taking off in rural Africa.

It’s the organization’s expectation that Africans who graduate from this center will be able to devise new, innovative, technological solutions. “With this Academy, we can capitalize on Akon Lighting Africa and go further,” said Niang.

In addition to Akon Lighting Africa, Akon has other charitable initiatives operating in Africa. The Konfidence Foundation, which has been around since 2006, works to raise public awareness for issues regarding certain conditions in Africa, as well as providing underprivileged youth with educational materials, recreational resources, and health and wellness services. Akon told African Vibes:

As a regular person, there’s not much you can do, but as a celebrity you can influence millions of people, which makes it a lot easier. Things can happen a lot faster, and I like to take advantage of that and find more ways to bring opportunities to Africa.

He has spoken out in other media outlets about his drive to give back in Africa, stating in a 2014 Politico interview:

I think the United States probably may take the value of Africa just a little bit for granted. I think with the right partners, the right neighboring allies and the right support, Africa could be dominating. Because it has all the natural resources you can imagine, and if all the other countries actually got together and created unity, the dollar would be humongous.

There are obviously many other celebrities in addition to Akon that make an effort to give back to those in need internationally. For example, in 2007, Oprah Winfrey opened The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa located in Henley on Klip in Gauteng province. Beginning with 7th and 8th grade classes, the school grew one grade year each year until it reached capacity in 2012. While Akon and Oprah are just a few select examples of international outreach, they really epitomize a strong sense of charity and generosity.

Angel Idowu
Angel Idowu is a member of the Beloit College Class of 2016 and was a Law Street Media Fellow for the Summer of 2015. Contact Angel at



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