Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Rapper Akon is building a new futuristic ‘Crypto city,’ in Senegal, which will trade exclusively in his own digital cash currency called AKoin.
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The US-born singer, who is of Senegalese descent, says his futuristic city will be built on a 2,000-acre land gifted to him by the President of Senegal, Macky Sall.
According to its official website, the city will be a five-minute drive from the West African state’s new international airport. While the city project is still in development, AKoin is expected to launch early July.
The singer– real name Aliaume Thiam– unveiled plans for the city and his currency during a panel at the Cannes Lions festival of creativity, which ended on Friday. Akon, 45, is more recognized as a business man than a musician these days. His most recent venture is Akon Lighting Africa which is providing solar power to African countries.
“I think that blockchain and crypto could be the saviour for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people… Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology offer a more secure currency that enables people in Africa to advance themselves independent of the government,” Akon a the event held in the French city of Cannes.
His views were echoed by participants at the MEST Africa Summit, where a group of tech experts gathered last week to discuss “trends, challenges and opportunities affecting markets across the continent.”
Tricia Martinez, CEO of zero-fee money app WALA, noted that almost 94% of transactions on the continent are still cash-based. She blamed the fees charged by financial institutions on transactions as a major setback for adoption. “Zero fee is how we’re going to solve financial inclusion,” Martinez said.
While attention is given to unbanked Africans, the experts also noted that an increasing number of underbanked Africans had already given up on the financial system due to its inefficiencies and high fees.
Campbell on the other hand believe the shortcomings of Africa’s banks are creating spaces for blockchain to fill.
“The future is transactional. Blockchain will do for payments what the internet has done for information,” Campbell said.
But Rasheed Alabi, a risk management analyst, says Africans see cryptocurrencies as a means of achieving financial independence and escaping the continent’s ailing economies.
“We missed the internet boom, crypto is another opportunity for us,” Alabi says.
With African governments tightly controlling several sectors including banking and internet access, Africa’s crypto evangelists say blockchain offers an instrument that the government cannot regulate.
“Governments around the world are already losing their voice when it comes to becoming their citizens’ financial and security advisers. People don’t trust the government anymore and the global liberalist movement is fast rising,” Alabi told CNN.
However, a major obstacle that Akon’s AKOin must overcome is regaining the trust of some Africans who are wary after losing savings to online investment ventures and ponzi schemes such as MMM.
Data shows that investment in cryptocurrency is growing In Africa, South Africans and Nigerians are the highest ranked African countries with the largest volume of cryptocurrency transactions, according to data from CryptoCompare.
Instead of continuing to oppose its adoption, Alabi said African governments need to get on board and share Akon’s vision by keeping an open policy, he says.
Some African governments are already taking steps to embrace blockchain technologies.
In Ghana, it is being deployed by the land registry to tackle fraud. Kenya is boosting remittances with the technology while in South Africa, it is being used for identity verification.
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