Singer Akon launches solar academy in Mali

St. Louis-born singer and hip-hop artist Akon, 42, announced at the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York last week that he is to open a Solar Academy in Mali this summer.

The institution will follow on from the Senegalese-American’s Akon Lighting Africa initiative, which was launched in 2014 to bring solar electricity power to 600 million Africans that currently live off the grid.

Akon, famous for his 2004 single Locked Up, will open the academy in Mali capital of Bamako, and will enlist the assistance of European solar technicians and experts to supply training programs, equipment and guidance. Solektra International is to partner on the project.

According to Akon Lighting Africa, the academy will teach students how to install and maintain solar-powered electricity systems and micro grids, harnessing the 320 days of sunshine that most parts of Africa receive annually.

"We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities," said Akon Lighting Africa co-founder Samba Baithily. "We now need to consolidate African expertise."

The initiative’s founder added that 70% of Africans are aged under 35, making the creation of sustainable jobs vital for the continent’s economic future. Solar’s viability in many parts of Africa make it a sound investment in more ways than one.

"We expect the Africans who graduate from this center to devise new, innovative, technical solutions," added Niang. "With this academy, we can capitalize on Akon Lighting Africa and go further."

Akon Lighting Africa is now present in 14 African countries and has provided solar power to more than 1 million households by subsidizing the cost of installation for consumers keen on replacing kerosene with solar energy.

The scheme has also secured a $1 billion credit line from Chinese construction firm China Jiangsu International Group to help fund the development of the solar energy project.