American R&B singer Akon is moving ahead with plans to create a futuristic pan-African city, announcing Monday that construction will begin next year on the GHS 34.6 billion ($6 billion) project despite global tourism’s uncertain future.
Akon, who first announced his idea for the utopian city back in 2018, has described it as a “real-life Wakanda,” comparing it to the technologically advanced fictional African place portrayed in the blockbuster film “Black Panther.”
On Monday, Akon said he hoped his project would provide much needed jobs for Senegalese and also serve as a “home back home” for Black Americans and others facing racial injustices.
“The system back home treats them unfairly in so many different ways that you can never imagine. And they only go through it because they feel that there is no other way,” he said.
“So if you’re coming from America or Europe or elsewhere in the diaspora and you feel that you want to visit Africa, we want Senegal to be your first stop.”
Akon, who was born in the United States to Senegalese parents, spent much of his childhood in the West African country where in only 44 percent of rural households had electricity even in 2018.
Senegalese authorities have embraced him as a native son, introducing him by his given name Aliuane Thiam and praising him for investing in Africa at a time of such global financial uncertainty.
On Monday, he traveled with government officials to the grassy fields in Mbodienne some 100 kilometers (62 miles) outside the capital where construction has yet to begin.
Tourism Minister Alioune Sarr said Akon’s launch comes at a time when private investment is scarce and badly needed. International flights have resumed in Senegal, but at the moment are only for citizens and residents with a few exceptions.
“COVID-19 has sown doubt everywhere. This means that those who had doubts about the attractiveness of Senegal, and Africa in general must convince themselves that there are men and women who believe in Africa,” he said.
Source: Associated Press
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