- Rapper Akon's cryptocurrency Akoin, which will be a cornerstone of his planned smart city in Senegal, was listed for purchase on Wednesday on bitcoin exchange Bittrex Global.
- The cryptocurrency had been originally envisioned to launch via an initial exchange offering (IEO), a method the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advised earlier this year that investors should approach with "caution." Instead, Akoin has been listed directly on Bittrex Global, an approach that company officials said last month "would create more value for our community and provide a more sustainable path towards fulfilling the mission of Akoin."
- Akoin has already partnered with the Mwale Medical and Technology City in Kenya, where it is scheduled to be used for payroll starting Nov. 20 and accepted "throughout the city for daily exchanges and beyond." The company said last month these initial launches will mean Akoin is fairly distributed to avoid market manipulation, which would undermine its efforts to be a "token for Africa."
Akon raised eyebrows in 2018 when he announced intentions to build a smart city in Senegal called Akon City. He said it would be a "real-life Wakanda" based on the fictional African settlement in the Black Panther franchise of comics.
The smart city is part of a philanthropic streak for the Senegalese-born rapper, whose Akon Lighting Africa project provides solar power to 18 countries in Africa. Yet doubts remain around Akon's full vision being realized, given financial pressures and a global trend of planned smart city projects that have fallen through.
In an interview with YouTube channel BitBoy Crypto, Akon said he was inspired to develop the city and the cryptocurrency after traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Senegal, said seeing how accustomed Americans are to basic necessities like electricity and hot water.
"Ultimately, it became me wanting to develop Africa, wanting to develop the continent," Akon said.
An April blog post from AkoinOfficial even detailed its efforts through a partnership with UNL to connect rural African communities through digital mapping and provide addresses to those living in unaddressed rural areas. Akon City itself could be a driving force of this digital change in Senegal.
Indeed, Akon City makes big promises about what's to come for its 2,000-acre waterfront site, with futuristic skyscrapers and the ability for residents to pay for anything including their utilities, taxes and transportation using Akoin. The city promises futuristic design and amenities, a luxury resort, a hospital and a data center driven by artificial intelligence (AI). It has parallels to other planned smart city developments in its bold public pronouncements, like Bill Gates' smart city plans in Arizona, the Japan-Thailand Millennium Town just outside Bangkok, and the Gramercy District near Washington, DC.
Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside smart city project on the Toronto waterfront was another notable planned development, though the company announced in May that it would no longer pursue the project. Some blamed this failure on a "techlash" against urban development driven by technology and the surrounding privacy concerns.
Akon said his project will be focused entirely on the needs of citizens, with technology and cryptocurrency designed to support these needs and improve lives.