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Akon Is being used as a frontier for Chinese-owned businesses to sell solar power to Africa-Read!

So says this article by Joseph Guthrie titled 'Tricking Africa?'. Read below..
When the news broke about Akon’s initiative to bring solar power to 600 million Africans, social media was awash with praise and mainstream media felt compelled to spread the word. The Senegalese-American recording artist/entrepreneur officially became the face of the plan that he had dropped hints about for a year. Upon first glance, you couldn’t really blame anyone for extending their adulation.
The world’s second largest continent and its 54 nations have repeatedly been a target for imperialism, colonialism, and conquest so seeing a descendent “give back” to the people struggling to keep their heads above water was indeed a refreshing moment.
 The official Akon Lighting Africa (ALA) webpage is a spectacle to behold: Akon’s visage and signature adorning his words in the form of a quotation “…bringing hope to millions and ultimately giving Africa a better future” greet you as the page loads; three major bullet points outlining the programme’s overall goals to bring light to the African masses neatly line up next to that. For lots of people – the global black diaspora, notwithstanding – this move is beyond major. 

Akon’s peers in the entertainment industry – particularly black artists and/or actors – were very vocal in their support. Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Tyrese, Timbaland, and Lil Jon used their respective spaces to tell their fans and affiliates about this incredible academy. Mike Bloomberg and organisations, including the United Nations, also spoke highly of Akon’s efforts. Countless Africans tendered their gratitude to Akon for stepping forward and using his stardom to make a significant difference in their lives. Truly, it was marvellous to see all of this positivity abounding.
Or at least… it seemed marvellous at the time.

Not even a day after ALA was officially announced, Snoop Dogg took to Instagram to air a grievance. He bemoaned the fact that major media outlets prioritised the coverage of Caitlyn Jenner over Akon’s solar academy, insulting Caitlyn – a transgender woman – in the process. Of course, I was appalled by the labelling of Jenner as “a science project,” and when I took to Twitter to air my own views on the discourse (calling out the attention ALA wasn’t getting using that kind of transphobic language is quite crass and wholly unproductive, I feel), I saw that valid questions were being asked about ALA.

JJ Bola – author, poet, and educator – was one of a few people I noticed looking at the ALA initiative critically. “…Where does that 600 million figure come from? That’s half the continent,” he tweeted. He’s not far off: The estimated total population of Africa is 1.111 billion people. Half of that is 550,500,000 – very close to the number of people that ALA has said they will deliver a clean, renewable energy source to. Even allowing for lofty ambition, I still believed the target was achievable considering ALA’s $1bn line of credit and the substantial political networking ALA has already done to get this realised. And then, I was presented with a blog post in the Corge that made no bones about why they thought ALA was merely a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Their lengthy essay laid out major concerns, stating Akon is nothing more than a “scumbag torch-bearer for the new imperialism that is coming” to the continent. Initially, the whole thing read to me like an aimless rant, effing and blinding and throwing out all manner of insults to Akon’s character. Thankfully, there was a decent amount of substance to the concerns and a bit of righteousness to the anger. It also provided answers to my own questions about ALA, upon further research and fact-checking. Consider the following:

Who is funding ALA? ALA has been provided a $1bn line of credit via China Jiangsu International, a state-owned international conglomerate, headquartered in Nanjing, China, specialising in economic cooperation and foreign trade. China Jiangsu International was founded in December 1980 and has more than 30 overseas subsidiaries, offices and branches to extend their reach and influence to roughly 80 countries around the world. According to their website, “CJI has exported chemical products, API, electrical equipment, and materials exports, exceeding a total volume of $10bn USD per year.” 

Is this a private venture or is ALA not-for-profit? How will it be paid for? It appears ALA isn’t what you’d call a completely philanthropic endeavour, to say the least. Quoth Akon: “We invest our own money to get things started. We go in, plead our case to the country, put up pilots with our own dollars using sophisticated equipment…It shows people that we’re not coming in to pull money out of the country, we’re there to provide jobs for the locals and to enable them to feed their families.” So what does he mean by this? According to the ALA website, the average investment per village is $75,000 USD and will see the partnership of public (read: government, heads of state) organisations and private firms (read: Solektra, Give1 Project, Akon Corp, Sumec, Nari, and Huawei) in order to oversee the delivery. Given the private companies getting involved and private dollars getting spent, one would expect these companies to see a return on that investment. Sure enough, Samba Bathily – one of the cofounders for ALA and head of the holding group that owns Solektra – dropped more knowledge on the subject. “It means anyone who installs our systems can make payments over [several] years. Most of these countries couldn’t allocate the money to pay for a big project up front, but they can afford if they pay by installments.” [REF.? this I think is the embedded link at ‘knowledge’ above] At this stage, one would be well pressed to make ALA out to be altruistic.

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