Rapper Akon lights up Africa with solar

During the past week, Akon — born Aliaune Badara Thiam in St. Louis, and raised in Senegal until he was seven — has suggested to local media that he may try to launch an IPO for his New York-based Solektra International solar company.

The company is said to have structured some $400 million worth of solar deals to date. His office did not respond to a request for additional information.

Akon launched the Akon Lighting Africa initiative in February 2014, and today, 200,000 small solar projects later, Solektra is active in 14 African countries including: Mali; Niger; Senegal; Guinea; Burkina Faso; Sierra Leone; Benin; Guinea Equatorial; Gabon; Republic of Congo; Namibia; Madagascar; Kenya and Nigeria.

Akon Lighting Africa works with local banks and governments to develop public-private partnerships (PPPs) to finance solar projects, for which panels are supplied by Chinese companies. Among Solektra’s Chinese partners are partnerships with Nanjing-based power equipment makers Sumec Group and Nari Group, press reports say.

Akon also readily partners with charities and other funding sources. In Sierra Leone, for example, he has partnered with the Lanyi Foundation and The Healey Foundation.

Solektra offers a range of solar lighting, including the Free Light Sol-SL01A, designed to replace traditional oil lamps in rural off-grid areas that have little or no access to electricity. The product comprises a photovoltaic panel, a lithium battery and LED lighting.

Apart from providing solar lighting and other products, Akon is training workers in solar technology at a school he established in March, in Bamako, Mali. Solektra’s African headquarters also are located in there. France’s Sunna Design is providing some solar lighting products to Solektra, and also is collaborating on a factory in Mali.

Solektra is considering pilot projects in Brazil and India, and has a goal of building a U.S. solar farm, as well.