There’s No Doubt That Akon City Is the Most Futuristic City in the Making With Its Own Digital Currency.
Hip Hop artist, Akon, doesn’t list flying or spiders or even death as one of his fears. According to him, “One of my biggest fears was just being known for singing and dancing.” So, what’s the solution for one of the most well-paid artists in his genre? To build a city of course and coin your own well…. currency.
Akon City is a $6 billion sustainable smart city planned for the coast of Senegal in Africa all fuelled by the cryptocurrency Akoin.
It’s a head spinning ride from chart topping hits to building a futuristic metropolis, but the R&B singer plans to carve his name into the property and tech market before the fat lady has sung.
Hold on tight, because this story has more twists and turns than a Six Flags roller coaster including government flip flopping, a dodgy investor, Hollywood tycoons, some questionable environmental factors and even a Michael Jackson feature, so don’t look away or you’ll miss something!
If you can’t wait to take a trip of this city, then reading about it might not be the best way to explore. Switch to our YouTube upload:
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the first crazy fact about Akon City, we bet you didn’t think about.
Skyscrapers or Sex Toys – the Weird Architectural Design of Akon City
When the artists impressions of Akon city hit the webiverse the response was mixed. Some thought it was great because it looked like giant creative sex toys, others thought it was terrible because it resembled giant creative sex toys. The jury’s still out on that, but one thing for sure is that it’s…memorable.
The lead architect on the Akon City project is Hussein Bakri, of Dubai’s Bakri & Associates Development Consultants. The city is meant to represent a hyper drive of world famous cities with great skylines like Barcelona, New York and Dubai. The city will be a mix of traditional construction materials as well as new materials developed just for this project like lightweight steel and glass that also generates energy. Transportation systems that run above ground and underwater will add a cool element.
Local Architect, Mamy Tall of the Instagram page DakarLives, commented on how impractical the design was when it came to the local climate, materials or needs, pointing out that huge windows invite uncomfortable heat and will require constant air conditioning. “I really hope it’s a big joke,” Mamy Tall Said.
So, what about the phallic design? Well according to Bakri, the plans for the city may seem fantastical but “In 25 years, all the normal buildings will be looking like this”.
Maybe not eeeexactly like this, Bakri!
Where Does the Money Come From?
So how does a singer worth an estimated $80 million find $6 billion to build a city?
Well known for his fancy footwork and growing entrepreneurial portfolio, Akon has found funding in all the right places. The first step was getting the backing of the Senegalese government. President Macky Sall himself has endorsed the project and Senegal’s minister of tourism has also been involved.
Originally it was reported that the president gifted Akon the 2,000-acre plot of land for the city, but this was later corrected by Akon and his people. Apparently Akon wrote “a seven-figure check” to obtain the land.
Then there are two other names you need to remember. The first is John Karas, a former Hollywood producer. Karas is the president and cofounder of Akoin and Akon’s right hand man in this venture. But a lot more on him later.
The second is Julius Mwale who is reported to have brought $4 billion of investment through Los Angeles based KE International. This isn’t Mwale’s first tech property development. In 2019 he opened the doors to the S$2B Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC), a green City based in Western Kenya, which began in 2014 and is expecting completion in December 2020.
But there is so much to say about Mwale, his rap sheet reads like a soap-opera, so we have dedicated a whole point to him later on. But for now, all you need to know is that he has brought most of the dough to the table.
We do know that Mwale — who is the only named financier of Akon City so far — was the lead investor. According to Mwale’s spokesperson, he’s responsible for the bulk of the $4 billion that’s been raised. The other investors and partners remain a mystery.
All that John Karas was willing to reveal was that the other partners in the project are made up of “companies and high-net-worth individuals” from around the globe, particularly Africa and the Persian Gulf states.
Who Is Bigger in Africa, Michael Jackson or Akon?
Akon was born in Missouri, USA as Aliuame Badara Thiam. He spent most of his childhood in Senegal but then moved to New Jersey at age 11. In 2004 you couldn’t switch on a radio without hearing Akon’s hit single “Locked Up.” He sold 35 million albums worldwide and did some dope collaborations.
But while he might have faded on the music scene in recent years, according to business partner John Karas; Akon is “bigger than Michael Jackson” in Africa.
He might be right, because in 2017 Forbes Africa named him the most bankable artist on the continent. Seems like his light is far from fading in Africa, but his popularity isn’t only from his singing.
In 2014, he launched a solar-power project called Akon Lighting Africa. This provides electricity to rural communities in 14 countries.
In 2015 he met Jon Karas in Hollywood, and that’s when Akon city and the Akoin crypto-universe gained traction.
Apart from selling albums, how bright a star shines in the industry is also gauged by the money spent on their tracks. Check out the Most Expensive Music Videos Ever Made.
How Akoin Is Set to Monetize the City With Cryptocoin
What’s cooler than having your own city? Well having your own currency I guess. Akoin, is the official currency of Akon City, and can be used with a smartphone. According to the crypto currencies white paper, they estimate mobile phone users in Africa will reach 623 million by 2025.
60% of the population in Africa are under 25 and unbanked and use their mobile phones for everything. Akon aims to convert these into Akoin users and claim a slice of the $267 billion crypto currency pie.
Akoin was originally announced in 2018 and the plan was to build a whole ecosystem around the crypto, including construction of Akon city and initiatives to support young entrepreneurs.
But it’s not all warm welcomes for Akoin. African governments have been very sceptical of crypto currencies. South Africa’s reserve bank published guidance on how it would tax crypto currencies. Kenya’s central bank has also issued regulations on Crypto very cautiously.
Mostly it stems from wariness that people in these countries will lose money. But integrating block chain technology into city building is gaining traction globally, and Akon plans to cash in on this.
Who Is Jon Karas?
It’s time we meet one of the big players in Akon City: Jon Karas. Karas started his career as a Hollywood producer, but now enjoys the title of president and cofounder of Akoin and the CEO and cofounder of Akon Legacy Ventures. Akon Legacy Ventures is Akon’s business entity that encompasses his other pursuits.
So, in business, he has all his eggs in Akon’s basket, or is that all his eggs are Akons?
As we mentioned, Akon spent part of his childhood in Senegal. Senegal has been called West Africa’s most stable democracy and boasts 330 miles of Atlantic coastline – so is rich with business opportunity.
Recently Senegal launched the Delegation for Rapid Entrepreneurship or DER, a $5.4 million annual fund to support young entrepreneurs with a focus on digital technologies.
The country also passed a “startup act” which offers tax breaks and benefits to incentivize new business in various sectors.
It seems like great timing in a country with a growing young population ready and eager to adopt technology.
Location. Location. Location.
The position of Akon City is a 2,000 acre waterfront on the Senegalese coastline about 62 miles south of Dakar. Just 35 miles from the new Dakar international airport development that cost $575 million.
Conversely the highway from the capital to Akon city passes a smattering of villages of rural Senegal. This will be a huge contrast to the proposed 985 feet high skyscrapers planned for Akon City. In Dakar the tallest building reaches just 250 feet.
It’s the First but Not the Last.
Akon hasn’t even got the first building up in Akon City, but he is already talking about the next.
According to Akon “We plan to literally franchise the city.” He sees it as the first of many cookie cutter smart cities where the formula can be reapplied elsewhere. And how is he paying for this multicity dream? Akoin of course!
How Will It Empower Africans?
One of the criticisms of Akon City is how it will actually empower local people, and how it will involve them. Akon and everyone involved in the city’s development advertise the city as a major generator of jobs. But to date there hasn’t been a solid plan laid out of how and who will benefit.
So far there hasn’t been a whole lot of provision given for local skills to contribute. Despite Akon claiming: “I want the buildings to look like real African sculptures that they make in the villages,” The architect was from Dubai. When challenged about this decision he said: “But honestly, I wanted to not overthink my project. In my research, as far as what I needed in the time that I needed, I could not find one fast enough.”
Construction was awarded to a US based construction firm, KE International.
So the question remains: How will it empower Africans?
A Look at Investor Julius Mwale and His Long List of Debts
Julius Mwale was an Air Force Soldier for Kenya, however in 2000 under unclear circumstances he applied for asylum in the USA. In a 2009 interview he said that he was “forced to flee the country” when he had a disagreement with government authorities over the technology research he worked on for the military. He claims his life was in danger.
Once in the US of A, Mwale founded SBA Technologies Inc., a company claiming to provide secure platforms for mobile banking and commerce. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing there either and Mwale has been sued for fraud, failure to pay rent and bills, and defaulting on loan payments. The court ordered him to repay the monies in all 3 law suits on public record.
His lawyers plan to fight the judgements describing them as frivolous. Not surprisingly, Jon Karas is a firm backer of his financial backer describing his dealings with Mwale as “appropriate, professional, and forward-thinking” when it comes to Akon City.
Africa’s History With Smart City’s
Akon City certainly isn’t the first proposed smart city for Africa. The idea has been kicked around since the dawn of the tech explosion. But until now, no matter the scenario, none have been successful mostly due to a lack of buy in when it seems ill-placed in a landscape where basic needs need to be met before lofty ideas like futuristic modern mecca’s.
The “African Manhattan” ring fenced for smart city development in Johannesburg, South Africa failed to get the green light when the proposal didn’t include any plans for affordable housing. Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah” struggled to raise funds and get through the bureaucratic red tape before the project crumbled.
Akon does seem to be more switched on to the need for local involvement to make the dream a reality. According to him: “We want to empower all the young entrepreneurs with the tools to be able to fuel their businesses.” This will surely win points with local government and help investors also see the merit in his smart city. But more on that in the next point.
How Is the Community Involved?
The original launch of the design of Akon City received a lot of slack from Senegal’s architectural community for not including them. Akon has clapped back with a promise of including locals in the project moving forward. But there are still uncertainties on how, and whether locals will be able to afford to live in the city.
Jon Karas has been quoted saying that the first residents of Akon City will be business people, European holiday makers and business owners. However, architect Bakri has included everyone from janitors to engineers to Hollywood stars in his vision. The project management company, KE International has promised that 30% of the city’s housing will be affordable to “the lower half of the wage market.”
But how does the local market feel about outsiders deciding what they need? A researcher of Smart Cities from the University of Warwick advised: “People don’t want somebody to come from America and throw around bitcoins and solve their problems.” And that the approach should be “done in a sensitive and considerate and inclusive way that takes into account local people.”
However, the non-profits and development organisations that play in this space have not been consulted by Akon and his people.
For example Carine Vavasseur at Senegal’s startup fund DER that we mentioned earlier is an “ecosystem builder”. DER supports many start-ups that could be involved in building Akon City but nobody from Akon City has contacted their organization.
Akon’s Plans for a Pad in Akon City
One thing is for sure, Akon will have a lush pad in Akon City. If his multi-million dollar mansions are anything to go on, we’re sure he will be bringing his signature swag to his new city.
Akon’s mansions are dotted from Alpharetta to Georgia, and a completely white house called Heaven’s Estate at Woodland Hills.
When it comes to Akon City he says: “Once it’s up, that’s where you’re going to find me. That’s where I’ll be living.”
Akon City and the Ecological Impact
Since the start Akon has had a vision of adopting green and eco-friendly construction and energy into Akon City. A large part of the appeal of the city is that it will be a clean and green space to live and work.
KE International is aiming to have Akon City be certified LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is a North American system of standardization for high environmental quality buildings created by the US Green Building Council.
Add that to Akon’s history of green energy and we’re sure it will be a success on all green fronts.
Plans to Break Ground
According to the hype, Akon City has already broken ground. But it was more like a launch on the 31 August 2020 when Akon and Senegal’s minister of tourism, Alioune Sarr, laid down the first stone in the coastal village of Mbodiene in Senegal the site of Akon City.
Construction of phase one is scheduled for 2021 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. This will include roads, a Hamptons Hospital, a Hampton’s Mall, residences, hotels, a police station, school, waste facility and solar power plant.
Phase two will kick off in 2024 and run for 5 years. Those familiar with projects of these scale estimate the final budget to be double the current $6 billion starting figure.
The plan is that within 10 years of the start of construction at least half a million people will call Akon City home.
Would you visit Akon City?
What do you think of music Artists moving into business? Check out more celebrities on the side hustle with our video: 15 Celebrities That Got RICH by Selling Alcohol