Watchdog Uganda interviewed global music icon and fin-tech entrepreneur Akon about his mission to Uganda, his role in the new African development agenda including plans and opportunities in Akon cities in Senegal and Uganda which he believes are game-changers that are opening new opportunities for African Youth with the ‘right mindset’.
Akon, whose full name is Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam is a Senegalese-American singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and actor from New Jersey.
Watchdog Uganda: Mr. Akon, you have achieved so much, via your personal talents and certainly, with your ambitions for a prosperous Africa. At one time, you wanted to light the continent with your solar light company, and now, a lot has been spoken about your futuristic cities on the continent. Since you came to Uganda so much has been reported, but, you have not spoken about your number one mission to Uganda. And what have you achieved so far?
AKON: Alhamdulillah, I thank God for whatever I am and have achieved this far because without HIS mercy and favor I wouldn’t be who you see today. In the line of success, there will always be a lot of critics and naysayers but these should never make you change your mind about your decisions. My number one mission on this trip was to explore viable business and investment opportunities which I have best achieved after my several meetings with H.E. Yoweri Museveni and my excursions in Uganda’s wilderness. I can confidently tell you that I have already decided to set up a number of businesses in the tourism sector including but not limited to developing luxurious
Watchdog Uganda: The announcement that you would set up a second Akon City in Uganda, was greeted with cheers in Uganda but cynicism by US media, saying the initial project in Senegal hasn’t taken off yet and Uganda was making a mistake to dedicate a square mile for your plans, would you throw more light on that?
AKON: The Akon City in Senegal has already kicked off, it is in the final stage of soil testing and so far over a third of the required funds have been raised and the construction commenced this year. The project in Uganda has as well received the necessary support and will kick off as soon as possible. The resources are available and we can run both projects concurrently. Let’s all be positive.
Watchdog Uganda: Executing such massive projects can be excruciating from a distance. You mentioned that you have a representative in Uganda, who could that be, and do you intend on getting more partners here?
AKON: Our coming to Uganda wasn’t a coincidence, we have some really good Ugandans that have their country at heart and influenced our decision to be here. My friend Isaac Kigozi who is in charge of trade and investment in the office of the president is our main liaison and partner in East Africa. I have not met anyone that loves Uganda more than Isaac. He has played a fundamental role in ensuring that both our advance visit and this current visit are is a success. The Uganda government needs more such people in the system. So our Partner will give more information about our initial stages and progress with investments as we commence soon. To me, Uganda is an investment hub and we are willing to do more than we initially thought.
Watchdog Uganda: One of the questions on the lips of your critics especially the designs of Akon city is how locals can participate in the development of your dreams in Africa. Can you be specific about it – because it seems Akon city from A-Z has little to do with ordinary Africans many of whom – one can say, live on less than two dollars a day? What is the place of an ordinary African in Akon city?
AKON: I believe that every single African can afford to live in AKON City and each of us has a role to play. Whether in Senegal or Uganda, we are not going to ferry in labor, we will just bring in a few professional experts to train the local people who will then be in charge of erecting this city since it belongs to them. If you are living on less than a dollar today, you are not done yet, you just need to rediscover yourself and tap into your inner self to realize there is a lot you can do to change your current mindset and economic status. Akon city is an opportunity for every ordinary Ugandan to change his and his children’s future narrative. It is not just for a few people but for everyone with the right attitude towards development.
Watchdog Uganda: You have spoken before about creating positive content online that births and shapes a new African narrative. How come you have not put your talent, resources, and connections to creating a powerful media to tell African stories such as investors have done for CNN, the Arabs have Aljazeera, etc.?
AKON: If we all set up media houses or cable channels, who will walk the talk? On many occasions, I have been incited to talk to young people about how to change the narrative of Africans and I have shared a lot of practical routes they can take which has worked for quite a number of them. The money used to set up such channels can be channeled to giving our people access to clean water, electricity, and mentorship programs which can be aired on the already existing media channels in the different African countries. We are funding a number of young people’s online initiatives, it is just that we are not going to come out to expose every initiative we have contributed to because this is against my spiritual beliefs as a Muslim.
Watchdog Uganda: What have you seen in Uganda that has left an impression on you?
AKON: The love and commitment to put country first exhibited by your leaders that I have rubbed shoulders with. My friend Isaac Kigozi who spent a lot of time in USA has done an incredibly good job alongside ambassador Abbey Walusimbi to not just invite entrepreneurs like myself to Uganda but also ensure we get to see Uganda for what it really is. Allah has blessed you with a beautiful country and endowed its people with beautiful hearts. I am inspired to do everything in my power to contribute positively to the economic growth of this pearl of Africa,
Watchdog Uganda: You have spent a lot of time with ‘who is who’ in the country, especially President Museveni and his family. As a high-profile African son, what kind of advice would you give leaders like President Museveni in running an African country in the 21st world?
AKON: From my meetings with him, I find President Museveni a very visionary person who is lucky to have the largest portion of his country’s population in the Youth bracket. This means that Uganda is braced for a dynamic and energetic workforce for quite a long time. I appeal to the president and his counterparts on the continent to tap into the youthful forward-thinking
Watchdog Uganda: As you leave Uganda, having dedicated enough days to this assignment, what are you taking home with you?
AKON: Inspiration to work even harder on my mission to contribute towards making Africa the great and enviable continent it is,
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