1. Business
June 6, 2017updated 07 Jun 2017 6:51pm

Rapper Akon considers IPO of his Chinese-funded African solar energy project

Akon, the 44-year-old American rapper of Senegalese descent is considering an initial public offering (IPO) of his solar business called Akon Lighting Africa.

Half the world’s 1.2bn people without ready access to electricity live in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates.

Referencing the launch of an IPO to fund expansion in Africa, India, China and Brazil, he hinted that talks were ongoing.

Akon, who has been nominated for five Grammy awards, told Bloomberg:

That’s definitely a conversation we’ve had with the financial team on how to structure as we move forward. We’ve been moving at a really rapid pace.

The singer has not released an album for seven years, instead focusing all of his attention on his renewable energy initiative.

“This project consumed so much of my time, I didn’t even realize that seven years went by,” said Akon, who lives in Los Angeles and visits family in Senegal. “I’ve been out of the loop, focusing on the Lighting Africa project.”

In just three years, the platinum-selling artist’s organisation has structured structured about $400m worth of solar deals to date.

Akon Lighting Africa has completed 203,200 small-scale solar projects including the installation of miniature grids and street lighting across 17 African countries.

These countries include Mali, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone.

Teaming up with local banks and governments, the project develops public-private partnerships (PPPs) to finance solar projects.

Chinese backers have invested as much as $1bn in Akon Lighting Africa.

The financial engine and IPO candidate behind the venture, Solektra International LLC, is owned by Akon and two other co-founders.

He partnered with Samba Bathily, a businessman from Mali, and Thione Niang, a Senegalese political activist in 2012.

What next?

Plans to expand into China and India are already underway, but Akon’s goal is to eventually build a solar farm in the US.

After a long break from the music scene, Akon will release an album later this year.

He said:

It’s funny because the fans didn’t even realize, they’re like ‘What! It’s been seven years since you put out an album?’