Rosie Awori (LJI)
R&B Star AKON lays foundation for futurist city in Senegal
Quirky towers for offices and homes, a stadium, a seaside resort, a technology hub, recording studios, a hospital and a university, and even an “African village.” Internationally acclaimed R&B musician Akon laid the first stone on his pharaonic project Akon city near Mbodième, a small coastal village in the west of Senegal.
The artist recently held a press conference in the Senegalese capital Dakar, to announce the launch of this sustainable construction project inspired by Wakanda, the name of an African fictional kingdom in which the script for the award-winning Marvel Studio movie Black Panther takes place.
Real name Badara Akon Thiam, he said the cost amounts to $6 billion US or nearly 80% of Senegal’s budget for 2020 ($7.6 billion US). According to the RnB star, one-third of the budget is already available.
The program is incredibly ambitious and intends to use state-of-the-art materials, film studios, hotels, universities, hospitals, business and leisure centers, but also an agricultural district and artificial islands.
The new, futuristic and environmentally friendly city looks to have a population of 300,000. The project will be carried out in the small village of Mbodiene, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, about a hundred kilometers south of Dakar.
This smart city, designed by architect Hussein Bakri, is an ode to West African culture. “I want architecture to resemble the real African sculptures they make in the villages. The shapes may be weird, but at least they’re African,” he is quoted as saying. “A blend of ultra-modernity and tradition that is supposed to offer African Americans who are victims of systemic racism an authentic “home” to reconnect with their roots.”
The currency envisaged for the project is the “Akoin”, a cryptocurrency founded by the R&B star. Akon City is not the first major development announced by the singer for Africa. Previous plans and grand promises have attracted criticism on the continent and questions around transparency. It hasn’t been well received in many quarters as many Senegalese feel that the project will not serve the interests of local people.
Some feel that the city is “straight out of the fertile imagination of an American comic artist.” While others have expressed their concern that many parts of the capital Dakar and other cities of the interior are flooded by torrential rains, and the choice of where to stay has become a luxury. The project is seen as a luxury and tone-deaf.
“We need to plan our own development, not entrust our future to the megalomaniac dreams of an American rapper,” one of the Senegalese media channels wrote.
Akon says the city will provide opportunities for Senegalese people and an alternative home for African Americans facing racial discrimination.
“The system back home [in the US] treats them unfairly in so many different ways that you can never imagine,” he said. “And they only go through it because they feel that there is no other way. 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.”