Fiction or non-fiction? Well, Akon City may eventually move from the former to the latter. However, for now, the massive project is more on the drawing board than in reality. The city and its Akoin will be a marvel if it meets design expectations. This is by far the most ambitious plan of popular singer and philanthropist Akon. Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam is a Senegalese who was born in America. The 47-year-old got into the limelight, thanks to his 2004 single “Locked Up” and another hit track “Smack That” later in 2006.
What We Know about the Akon City
In addition to his musical talent, Akon is an excellent example of the innovative African mind. The innovator is in contact with co-founders Jon Karas and Lynn Liss to build a cryptocurrency, Akoin. This digital currency presents a decentralized monetary system that will power the economic stability of Akon City. Beyond that, the Akoin is expected to bring Africa’s economy at par with global realities.
The magical Akon City will be built in two strategic phases. K.E. International, an American engineering and infrastructure consulting firm has been awarded the lead role in bringing this dream to life. Partnering with the firm is Bakri and Associates Development Consultants to bear responsibility for developing an astonishing architecture.
Building a paradise normally costs a fortune. This one is no exception. The mega project will gulp $6 billion with an initial phase scheduled to reach completion in 2023. This phase brings a full-kit of social amenities including the construction of residences and an over-the-top police station. More importantly, it will provide a waste facility and a solar power plant. Investors have so far put together $4 billion for the project according to reports by All Africa. A second construction phase is going to last from 2023 to 2030.
Features of The Akon City
On January 13, 2020, the Akon City agreements came to life. The excited founder shared this on a Twitter post. Akon City will feature the most amazingly curved and brightly-colored buildings with twists and turns in what will look like science-fiction. Two resorts, over five hotels, and one hospital and technological park each are just a few contents of the full package. The entire project is proposed to sit sky-high on a massive 2,000-acre land in Mbodieme, Senegal, near the Blaise Diagne International Airport. Another unusual feature by architect Hussein Bakri is a parking space for flying cars.
Possible Set Backs To Actualizing The Akon City Project
For so many reasons, this African tourism dream may never become a reality. Issues such as land rights, change of governments, or government policies among others can contribute tremendously to slow or totally halt the project.
#1. Change of Governments or Government Policies
Local and Federal governments determine the existence and functions of structures within their jurisdiction. Change of governments can impact negatively on the Akon City dream, particularly if the new government is not in support of the project. This is a source of concern considering the volatile political environment in Africa. Arguments surrounding the general feasibility of the project is yet another negative sign.
If a new government feels that the project is unnecessary, does not meet important requirements and standards or that it will not achieve tourism goals, the government may withdraw its support. Moreover, changing government policies also present some setbacks. Policies can introduce new taxes or higher rates, present unachievable standards and benchmarks, or even worse, totally revoke building permissions. An article in the National Academies Press describes the interaction of governments and investments.
#2. Land Rights Issues
Land rights issues surrounding Akon City are still prominent. The land available for the project is now mixed with clay and saltwater. Sadly, this makes it impossible to perform farming activities even though there is currently no development on the land. News also has it that a considerably large amount of compensation money is yet to be paid to villagers in the region. According to AllAfrica, documents dating back to 2014 reveal that the government owed 1.8 billion CFA Francs ($3.35 million) to 385 individuals for a total of 614 hectares of land in Mbodiene and nearby Pointe Sarene regions. Sources further describe a slow payment process.
#3. Construction Difficulty
Even after getting government approval and sorting land rights issues, there is a fundamental difficulty in building any paradise at all. Akon City is a demanding architecture in all ramifications. Thus, it requires a whole lot of work. Architectural twists and turns are easier on paper than on the field. However, Akon City will be relying on such breathtaking edifices to boost its tourism potential.
#4 Procuring Materials
There are still a handful of reasons why the project may never be seen. Procuring materials is just another one of them. Akon City boasts of unique elements along with a number of futuristic technological inclusions and accommodations. One major issue will be sourcing materials that fit the structural and tensile requirements. Moving imported or internationally acquired materials to Senegal where the construction will take place presents logistic challenges. Hopefully, they will find a way around this.
#5 Integration and Acceptance of The Akoin
On the long list of anything that can possibly go wrong is the integration and acceptance of the Akoin. The Akoin, a digital platform with a multi-currency approach, is intended to support an ecosystem of services in the Akon City. Any inability to implement this as precisely as planned will have devastating effects on the entire project. In essence, there will be no Akon City if there is no Akoin. This is due to the fact that the cryptocurrency plays a fundamental role in the Akon City setting. Also, how easily will Africans accept this new mode of exchange?
What Locals Think
While African Americans and other Africans outside Senegal are eager to see the completion of the project, many locals are indifferent. Mayor of Ngueniene, Magueye Ndao is one of the few that is mildly skeptical about the project. Talking about the Akon City project, Ndao said,
“Akon came to meet us. He said he’ll do this. It could be real or not real – but I think it’s real. We welcome this project with open arms and pray that everything Akon told us will be realized.”
Unlike Ndao, not everyone thinks the project has a chance of becoming a reality. Xavier Ricou, a former director at Senegal’s agency for promoting investment and major projects, APIX, thinks the project stands no chance at becoming a reality. Speaking with regards to previous experience, Ricou said,
“During the 15 years or so that I worked at APIX, I saw proposals from people who wanted to make cities all over. [As for Akon City] I think nothing will happen.”
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. Yes, that popular quote comes to mind when we think of the Akon City project. It is never really going to be easy. The inspiring part, however, is that the right steps are being taken. While we acknowledge the fears around the project, we also believe that Africa is a home of magic. If the United Arab Emirates can transform into a tourist hub within a short time, why can’t Africa do the same?