Akon addresses the YouthConnekt Africa summit in Kigali on Friday (21 July) / Photo: Timothy Kisambira/New Times

Don’t depend on governments to rebuild Africa – Akon tells youths

Senegalese singer, songwriter and businessman Akon has called on African youth to play an active role in rebuilding the continent and not depend on governments.

The American-born music star was addressing over 2,800 youth from all over Africa on Friday (21 July) in Rwanda’s capital Kigali during the final day of the maiden YouthConnekt Africa Summit organised to shape the future of the continent’s youth.

“We (the youth) have to be the driving force to rebuild Africa. We cannot depend on governments to do it for us. Their job is to lay down the framework and make sure that there’s accountability for the things that we do,” he said.

“When I was growing as an entertainer, I said to myself I don’t want to be remembered for just singing and dancing. Ultimately, I had to figure out what I can do that will help create a legacy. It hit me in the middle of the first song when the power just went off,” he said, while making reference to his 1 billion dollar solar project aimed at providing electricity to some 600 million Africans.

A delegate speaks at the inaugural YouthConnekt Africa Summit yesterday / Photo: Timothy Kisambira/New Times


Akon, real name Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, is the co-founder of the Akon Lighting Africa project which primarily targets rural communities that are not connected to the electricity and also seeks to find ways to bring costs down to make power supply more affordable.

He called on Africans in the Diaspora to join hands and change the narrative about the continent while they help fast-track its economic development.

“On the internet you will only see historical images and animals, as if Africa was a big jungle. Africans never get full credit in any way. Entertainers, filmmakers and producers, the press and anyone that creates content should take part in redefining this continent,” he added.

The three-day YouthConnekt Africa summit opened on Wednesday under the theme: “Realizing Africa’s Youth Potential.” It focused on establishing policy, programmes and partnerships to guide the continent to its goals of creating at least 54 million jobs that will absorb the growing labour force.

President Kagame (middle) speaks on a panel discussion with Jack Ma (right), the founder and chief executive of Alibaba Group, Asia’s largest e-Commerce platform, and Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at the YouthConnekt Africa summit at Kigali Convention Centre, yesterday. Kagame said that, by delaying free movement across Africa, the continent was denying itself an opportunity to increase trade and investments which can empower young people / Photo: Timothy Kisambira/New Times


Among the participants are government officials and special guests included Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, and most importantly successful entrepreneurs, artists and youth opinion leaders from across the continent.

The Summit was organised jointly by the Government of Rwanda in collaboration with UNCTAD, UNDP and other YouthConnekt partners.

Ismail Akwei

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