Senegalese rapper and ambitious businessman Akon (pictured) recently expressed that he thinks that many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charity groups hold Africans back, reports the Guardian.
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This summer, Akon’s efforts of bringing power to Africa were once again lauded, after he spoke at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi.
His visit would kick off his Africa tour of visiting nine other countries with business partners and co-founders Samba Bathily and Thione Niang for his Akon Lighting Africa Solar Power Initiative, which looks to install 100,000 street lamps, 1,000 solar micro-generators, and 200,000 household solar electric systems throughout African villages.
Akon and his team plan to expand their initiative to an additional 11 countries by the end of 2016.
Throughout his travels, though, Akon says, he’s noticed that many of the NGOs set up in Africa do not employ Africans, leading to their demise.
“One thing I’ve realized about Africa is that only the organisations that involve Africans themselves are successful. A lot of corporations that come with their own policies and try and implement them in Africa fail horribly. The advantage we had is that all three founders are African, so we were able to navigate through each country a lot faster.”
More pointedly, though, Akon says about NGOs and charities, “Personally, I don’t think that charities in Africa really work. I think it just holds the people down longer than it should. I think the only way to build Africa is to build for-profit businesses that create opportunities and jobs for the people locally.
“That’s why with Akon Lighting Africa we decided to take a for-profit approach. Ultimately, it’s providing empowerment to local people so they can start developing their own economies.”
Echoing Akon’s sentiments, Niang explains further about charity organizations, “What happens usually is that when people come to do business in Africa, they bring the expertise with them but they also bring the workers, and once they’re done they’re gone.
“That’s why many cities in Africa have a lot of solar lights but after three years none of them work and nobody is there to maintain them. So we thought it was important to train the young Africans in the local areas. And it’s important to give jobs to young people.”
Consequently, Lighting Africa is taking their initiative a step further by training young people for the work ahead with the academy they are building in Mali.
“…The organisation is a month away from launching an academy in Bamako, Mali, where young people will train in construction, engineering, clerical work, and project management.”
Ultimately, in addition to employing Africans, Akon advises those who are interested in uplifting Africa to focus on the rural areas.
“If you want to make an impact start there. My thinking is if you want to build Africa, you start from the rural areas because that is the heartbeat of Africa.”
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