Reviewing Akon City and Akoin

Akon City, a self-described ‘futuristic cryptocurrency themed city’ proposed by the musician Akon, recently announced that it has awarded a $6 billion contract to KE international, an American engineering and construction firm, having raised an initial $4 billion from private investors. Akon City’s local economy will rely solely on cryptoassets, namely using the singer’s quasi-eponymous ‘Akoin’ token as its standard medium of exchange. Notably, however, the city does not plan on employing blockchain beyond the support of its native cryptoasset, foregoing distributed ledger-based infrastructure included in similarly proposed ‘crypto-cities’. Although Akon’s idea of a crypto-based city is not unique it is one of the first to have attracted a large capital investment of $4 billion. For context, one of the largest other such efforts to-date – a blockchain smart city in Nevada – attracted a $300 million investment by Blockchains L.L.C founder, Jeffrey Berns, and is expected to break ground in 2022.

Akon City will be located near Mbodième, which is a one hour drive from the new Blaise Diagne International airport in Dakar, Senegal. The project was started by the Senegalese-American singer and Grammy award winner, Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam, also known as Akon. The construction of the city started in March of 2019 with core infrastructure expected to be completed by 2030.

Akon first devised the plan to build the city in Senegal in 2018, referring to it at the time as ‘a real-life Wakanda’ in reference to its supposed futuristic design. The development was, in part, made possible by Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, who gifted the project 2,000 acres of land to start development and was further assisted by the President designating the city as a ‘special tax zone’. Such municipalities enjoy tax breaks aimed at bolstering local and outside investment. The city intends to become the second ‘Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)’ certified city in Africa after Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC) in Kenya. Akon city will initially rely on tourism as its principal economic driver and the project is being co-developed and assisted by the state-owned tourism agency, SAPCO. The city has also partnered with the finance company, Bitminutes, the blockchain financial services company, Delchain, and the decentralized messaging project, Sense Chat, which is going to be one of the initial dApps available on the Akoin network.

The Stellar-based Akoin token will function as the city’s primary currency and the Akoin team hopes that its usage will proliferate across Africa. With the token expected to launch in July, the project hopes to raise $6.75 million in return for 10% of the token supply, with the remaining 90% to be distributed to advisors, the team, the foundation, the wallet exchange, and the treasury.

Akon City’s phase one is scheduled for completion by the end of 2023 and will have roads, a Hampton’s Hospital, a mall, hotels, a police station, a school, a waste facility, and a solar power plant; phase two will last from 2024 to 2029 during which time the city will fully transition to using Akoin as its exclusive currency. The first and second phases of the project have received $4 billion dollars in investment from the healthcare and technology sector, though information on specific investors is sparse.

Though Akon City is very much still in a nascent stage, the contract awarded to KE international lends plausibility to its execution. Indeed, KE international is currently building the MMTC, a $2 billion-dollar green-based city in western Kenya, and has completed approximately 85% of the work.

Despite much information regarding the funding of Akon City and the current state of the project still not being publically available, Akon’s long-standing influence in the region, the project’s substantial financial backing, and the support from the government may indicate future success.