JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr.
ATLANTA (AP) -- Grammy-nominated singer Akon has a goal of bringing solar-powered electricity to 1 million homes in Africa by the end of the year, and the singer is using millions of his own dollars for the cause.
Akon started an initiative called "Akon Lighting Africa" this month. The singer, who was born in the U.S. of Senegalese parents and was reared in both countries, said he was "pained" after seeing people in the continent without electricity.
"How could you build any infrastructure with no lights?" he said in a recent interview. "Without electricity, you can't even operate the machines to build roads or bridges. ...That's what created the initiative."
Akon's project aims to install solar equipment in households to improve energy sufficiency. He's partnered with Give1 Project, ADS Global Corporation SA and public-private solar energy companies. He also met with government leaders about the project in Senegal, Gambia, the Ivory Coast and other countries.
"After certain hours, it's completely pitch-black," he said. "Even for myself, as a child growing up in Africa, it wasn't that bad, but I know how life could be so much easier if they had those necessities."
So, far, Akon said his initiative has financed 10 light posts and power for 100 homes in Mali and Guinea Conakry. The economic and trade company China Jiangsu International will pre-finance all of the light posts, the singer said.
"I saw what simple lights did to those people there," he said. "It was like a huge festival when that light switch was hit. Now, kids can study during the afterhours. It's a luxury. It touched me."
Akon has had more than a dozen Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including "Smack That," ''I Wanna Love You" and "Locked Up." He recently released a new single "So Blue," and said he is working on new music. He also wants to hold a concert at the end of the year in Africa to celebrate the initiative.
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