The cornerstone is overgrown by grass, plaque has fallen off. This is where Senegalese-American star Akon promised to build a new African supercity just a year ago. Will construction start as promised?
The renderings looked almost too good to be true – nearly fluid skyscrapers, resorts and a large stadium, all landscaped into the Atlantic coast of Senegal, just 100 kilometres south of capital Dakar. But the area near Mbodiene remains unoccupied a year after Senegalese-American hip-hop star Akon announced the construction of his super city.
Last year, already well into the pandemic, Akon promised all of Senegal a gigantic investment of $6 billion, just shy of the entire African country’s annual budget. The funding is expected to go into Akon City, which would become Africa’s most stunning project if it looked anything like in the renderings.
While it’s quite common for developers to oversell their projects with flashy images, some aspects of the projects do make sense. It would see an entertainment district with a vast stadium for concerts and sports events. The venue would be conjoined with a casino and hotel, which – taken Dakar’s proximity – could become a hub for events. Rest assured, there are many casino operators willing to take part in prospective projects like this. PartyCasino, part of the Entain group, is one of many gambling operators committed to developing responsible gaming within and outside regular markets.
On paper, Akon City has a lot to offer. It’s thus no wonder that last year the news took locals by storm. The town of Mbodiene became a lucrative site for investment, a physical cornerstone was laid. But now, a year later, locals are left in the dark. Construction is supposed to start in October, yet no-one knows which elements would be built first or where exactly.
Some stories of Akon City were far-fetched to begin with, like the idea that Akoin would be the local currency. Sure, Akon did announce his cryptocurrency back in 2017, but it’s still not established on the highly competitive market. The city’s preliminary design, loosely based on Black Panther’s Wakanda, may have been a tad too much as well. Akon City’s main website suggests the stadium would cover 75,137.7 square metres and yet there’s no actual basis for such detailed measurement, especially with no actual design in place.
On paper, the megaproject has a general contractor, KE International. But the entire portfolio of KE International is just barely larger than this single project. And while it’s not impossible for a company to go scale up in a short period, there has to be funding secured for such an operation. At the moment, there seems to be very little. Kenyan entrepreneur Julius Mwale is supposed to be the main investor, but his first smart city in Kenya is still non-existent, despite claims of it operating already.
KE International has recently claimed that as many as $4 billion is already collected for the project, which would make two thirds of the total budget. But local authorities, expected to facilitate the investment, weren’t able to reveal any developments to Agence France-Presse when approached recently. As things stand, locals remain in limbo. The renderings are wonderful but the promises have many gaps that urgently need to be filled if the faith is to remain.