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Akon Talks Lighting Africa and Shocking Fans With His New Album

Akon and President Ali Bongo

Akon meets with President Ali Bongo.

No one can say Akon doesn’t follow through on a big idea. He’s currently on a mission to light up one million homes in Africa by the end of 2014, and after talking to the music mogul about the project, it already sounds like he’s close.

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Akon launched the Akon Lighting Africa project in conjunction with Give1Project and and ADS Global Corporation SA to bring electricity to many of the continents’ rural areas, equating to approximately one million homes. In February he went on a whirlwind tour of nine African countries in nine days, meeting with presidents to present his idea for a cost-effective way to provide the energy these areas so desperately need.

OK!: How did this project get started?
Akon:  I had been traveling through Africa and doing things outside of music and ultimately I started realizing that a lot of companies were going in obtaining contracts for energy or some kind of natural resources, but nothing would actually happen. Fifty years down the line comes and we see no activity, no nothing. It got to a point where the government was skeptical about allowing foreigners to come in and do business but at the same time all of the money the African government had, they weren’t investing any of it into the rural areas where I felt that’s where the money was necessary because out there they didn’t have the infrastructure for lights or energy. My conscience kicked in and I thought I have to not only help people but also change lives and build an infrastructure for Africa. We found a company called CJI out of China, which is one of the leading solar panel manufacturers and distributors in the world, and we came up with an easy fix to where the government wouldn’t have to put big money into this project. To show them how serious we are we visited nine countries in nine days and we met all of the presidents who are serious about building the infrastructures in their countries and we showed them our proposal. We told them we would light up a village of their choice with our own money to show them our commitment to it. When you add up all of the countries it will add up to at least a million households by the end of the year.

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OK!: This sounds like an overwhelming project, where did you start?
Akon: It’s funny because a lot of people have huge ideas but they never really know where to begin but you have to start somewhere, no matter how small you think it might be. It started as an idea and it just so happened that CJI were really concentrated on doing things in Africa and they saw our proposal and our intentions and they were interested. Then came meeting with all of the presidents that actually were interested in seeing our presentation in their country.

OK!: Was there anything that surprised you while meeting the leaders?
Akon: What surprised me was how engaged they were and how important it was to them and how much they actually wanted it to happen. I was actually surprised they had never been approached this way before. When we approached them they were like, “Wow, what took you guys so long? We’ve been waiting for something like this forever and no one has ever proposed this.”

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OK!: Has working on this project influenced your music at all?
Akon: Musically, I’ve been gone for the last five years. The last album I put out was in 2008 and since then I haven’t put out a record, but I’ve been growing as a person and even the kind of music I want to represent me has changed, so this new album is something that’s going to shock a lot of people in a good way because it’s such an amazing album and I feel it’s going to be my best album to date. It’s going to be the kind of record anyone can listen to and I don’t have to be in a position where I have to give my mom the clean version anymore. I want it to be able to represent me properly and make everyone proud of it.

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