Senegalese-American singer and philanthropist Aliaume Damala Badara, aka Akon, has promised 5 000 solar-powered streetlights and 2 500 traffic lights to support Sierra Leone's electrification agenda.
Akon's Lighting Africa project is set to boost the electrification of Sierra Leone, a central factor in the success of the agenda set by that country's new president, Julius Maada Bio.
President Bio has quite a task ahead of him, as the country faces economic challenges, despite its huge mineral and diamond deposits, caused by a slump in global commodity prices since 2015. This is coupled with Sierra Leone's ongoing recovery from an outbreak of Ebola in 2014, which killed 4 000 people and scared away investors.
Sierra Leoneans are hopeful, however, that President Bio will make good on his campaign slogan "Salone foh betteh" (Sierra Leone must improve) and one aspect of this would be increasing citizens' access to electricity.
In a meeting with the Akon on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, President Bio received the philanthropist's pledge to help in the electrification of Sierra Leone. Akon's Lighting Africa initiative, which has been facilitating access to clean and affordable sources of electricity in Africa, will provide 5 000 solar streetlights and 2 500 traffic lights.
Press secretary and presidential spokesman, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi, said: "The huge commitment by Akon has shown that President Bio's impressive leadership within six months is galvanising international goodwill to improve the lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans. The international community has reposed confidence in a president who continues to demonstrate passion to effect real change and rebrand his country."
In an interview shared by the Sierra Leone presidency, Akon said, "Actually (the president) motivated me a lot more. Meeting with the younger African leaders who have been elected now is really motivating because my biggest challenge was getting presidents to understand the vision. With him, we speak the same language. We pretty much have the same thought process so I think he's going to do very well for Sierra Leone."
Akon's solar investment programme has already benefitted his native Senegal and The Gambia.