RnB singer Akon says his much-delayed plans for Akon City – an African metropolis on the Senegalese coast – are “100,000 percent moving”.
Although goats are currently grazing on the site, he says that critics will look “super stupid” in the future.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the ‘Smack That’ singer also assured supporters waiting for refunds from his Token of Appreciation cryptocurrency campaign that they will receive their money back, even if he has to pay them out of his own pocket.
Widely known for his string of noughties chart hits Akon, who was born in the United States but partly raised in Senegal, announced two ambitious projects in 2018 that were supposed to represent the future of African society.
The first was a reported $6bn (£5bn) city with boldly curvaceous skyscrapers. It was to run on the second initiative – a brand new cryptocurrency called Akoin.
But several years on both projects have faced difficulties and delays and the site where the city is proposed to be built remains a waste ground.
On an overcast day in September 2020 Akon, dressed in a powder blue suit, strode confidently onto a dusty red patch of disused land. There to meet him was a gaggle of journalists from around the world who had assembled for the hit maker’s latest launch: a super city packed with stunning architecture.
Local people clapped as a veil was pulled back on a plaque marking the future building site. But two years on the question of whether the plans will ever come to fruition divides communities in the region.
“We thought we could work on it but at this pace, maybe our children will,” one resident of the area tells the BBC. “We remain hopeful for the project. We hope that our children will stay here to work.”
Another resident says they no longer believe in the project before adding “when it comes, if it finds us here, we will see how we can contribute”.
Akon City was initially compared in the press with Wakanda, the amazing African metropolis featured in the Black Panther movies and comic books. Phase one of the city containing roads, a campus, a mall, residences, hotels, a police station, a school, a waste facility and a solar power plant was supposed to be complete by the end of 2023. But after multiple delays, little on the ground appears to have changed since the launch ceremony.
“I am only here in the presence of goats” local journalist Borso Tall tells me. “It is completely empty… no sign of building just a long line of green trees and red earth. “But Akon remains adamant that his ambitious plans will still be realised.
When we meet in central London, he admits that with hindsight “I would have gotten more things in place before promoting it.”
He also blames Covid, which he says meant “everything would be pushed back two years”.
However, the world was already in the grip of the pandemic when he held the ceremony promoting Akon City to international media in August 2020.
“I plan to retire in that city,” he says confidently. “I don’t like to use the word the king of the city. But that’s what it will turn out to be.”
“We are trying to get the city built as fast as possible,” he says, adding that he has a lease on the land for the next 50 years and that his project has “been co-signed by the current president”.
The Senegalese government’s tourist board Sapco recently reaffirmed their commitment to the project.
“We believe in Akon city and we are all supporting Akon so the Akon city will come to life,” said Me Aliou Sow, CEO of Sapco. “It will attract tourists and investors in the region and Sapco is fully committed to the success of this project.”—BBC