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Akon promises solar-powered education in Benin

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Akon Lighting Africa, the solar electricity project headed by US hip hop and R&B star Akon, last week unveiled a digital education strategy in Benin.

Benin was the last stop on a two-week roadshow through several African countries, during which the project's co-founders unveiled a long-term objective to use solar power to drive digital education in Africa.

The organisation hopes to begin supplying digital learning devices, namely tablets, and setting up smart schools within the next few months, said Akon.

The stopover in Benin was also an opportunity for Akon Lighting Africa to review progress on the country's solar project to date. Solektra International, primary partner for Akon Lighting Africa, is currently installing the last of 1 500 solar-powered street lamps and 2 200 solar kits spanning 124 localities, under the government tender it was granted a few months ago.

The roadshow, which began with the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi on 25 July, covered Kenya, Rwanda, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria, Niger, and Benin, and was an opportunity for discussion with local agencies for rural electrification to identify opportunities for deploying solar solutions.

Akon Lighting Africa began formulating in September 2013, when Akon and co-founder Thione Niang, who both grew up without electricity in Kaolack, Senegal, began discussing what they could do to help drive economic growth in Africa, and some weeks later agreed that electricity was a top priority, according to the project's Web site.

Akon and Niang's vision gained traction when they were joined by Malian entrepreneur Samba Bathily, who provided targeted solutions through his solar equipment company, Solektra International, the Web site says.

Akon Lighting Africa officially debuted in February 2014 and has since established a presence in 14 African countries, prioritising local job creation and training and collaboration with local governments and authorities.

The project currently operates in Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Guinea, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, and aims to reach a total of 25 countries by the end of 2016.

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