By Gavin Gibbon
Senegalese-American singer Akon preparing to launch Akoin in early 2020
Senegalese-American singing star Akon has warned against celebrity-endorsed cryptocurrency – as he prepares to launch his own branded Akoin to the world.
Boxing legend Floyd Mayweather is just one celebrity to have been caught up in a cryptocurrency controversy in recent years for his work with Centra, which claimed to have partnerships with Visa and Mastercard and that it was working on creating a cryptocurrency you could spend at stores like a debit card.
DJ Khaled was also involved in Centra, while veteran actor Steven Seagal had his fingers burnt for an association with Bitcoin.
46-year-old Akon, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, told Arabian Business: “I think a lot of the entertainers went with the wave and also the hype of cryptocurrency, not understanding what it was or what it is and I think a lot of them got caught up into the companies that got eventually folded or were scams.
“That’s just a lack of education in getting into certain things because as an entertainer you find yourself endorsing a lot of products that you don’t do due diligence on.”
Akoin, which is expected to be launched early next year “on every exchange” and even in ATMs, is built to be a worldwide platform but is initially targeting Africa, in particular, aimed at supporting African youth as well as combatting corruption.
Akon said the continent boasts 15 percent of the world’s population and is the most valuable region in the world in terms of under- and above-ground resources, yet it remains among the poorest.
He revealed the minute the idea came to him to create his own cryptocurrency, when he was unable to spend his French-printed Senegalese CFA in an airport in France.
“That’s when I realised this was a big problem, a big issue. Our local money is not worth anything outside the country,” he said. “That’s what made me say ok, I want to be in a position where we can create a currency that’s going to be worth something and, not only that, but you can trade it all throughout the world, through every currency exists and that’s how Akoin came to birth.”
The project has been six years in the making.
Akon, who wrote smash hit singles ‘beautiful’ and ‘lonely’, added: “It’s a real currency, but it took all those other cryptocurrencies to fall and be erased, basically remove a lot of the trash before the good ones popped up at the top.”
This is not the first project Akon has undertaken aimed at helping the people of Africa.
In 2015 the singer launched ‘Akon Lighting Africa’, a mega-solar project in the Malian capital of Bamako, aimed at providing electricity to some 600 million Africans.
He is also currently involved in building a smart city in Senegal, which he hopes can be replicated across Africa.
He said: “This city is going to be the pilot to create and construct a model that actually works and that we can duplicate throughout Africa.”