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Akon’s Wakanda: a shattered crypto dream or still a possibility?

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Akon, an R&B artist, claims that his long-delayed plans for Akon City, a metropolis in Africa on the coast of Senegal, are “100% moving.”

He claims that even if goats are currently grazing there, in the future, detractors will appear “extremely foolish.”

The Smack That singer also promised fans awaiting refunds from his Token of Appreciation cryptocurrency campaign that they would get their money back, even if he had to pay them out of his own pocket.

Widely renowned for his series of No. 1 successes in the 2000s Akon, who was reared in Senegal but was born in the United States, revealed two large-scale initiatives in 2018 that were meant to symbolize the future of African society.

The first was a supposedly $6 billion (£5 billion) city full of daringly curved towers. The second venture, a brand-new cryptocurrency named Akoin, was to power it.

However, challenges and delays have plagued both projects for years, and the intended city’s proposed location is still a wasteland.

Akon stepped boldly onto a dusty red stretch of abandoned land in a powder blue suit on a cloudy day in September 2020. A group of international journalists had gathered for the hitmaker’s most recent launch, a supercity filled with gorgeous architecture, and they were waiting to meet him.

Locals cheered as a plaque identifying the planned construction site had its cover lifted. Communities in the area are divided, however, on the issue of whether the plans will ever materialize after two years.

One local said,

We believed we could work on it, but at this pace, maybe our children will. We continue to have faith in the initiative. We anticipate that our kids will continue to work here.

Another local added, “When it comes, if it finds us here, we’ll see how we can participate,” after declaring they no longer support the idea.

Initially, Wakanda—the magnificent African city depicted in the Black Panther movies and comic books—was compared to Akon City in the media. By the end of 2023, phase one of the city, which included roads, a campus, a mall, homes, hotels, a police station, a school, a waste facility, and a solar power plant, was meant to be finished. But after numerous delays, it seems that not much has changed since the debut event.

Journalist Borso Tall from the area says,

I’m just here because there are goats here. It’s absolutely deserted; there are only a long row of green trees and red ground and no trace of any buildings.

Akon, though, is convinced that his grand ambitions will nonetheless come to pass.

He confesses that, in hindsight, “I would have gotten more things in place before marketing it” when we meet in the heart of London.

He also holds Covid accountable, claiming that this caused “everything to be pushed back two years.”

In August 2020, he hosted the ceremony introducing Akon City to the world’s media, but the pandemic had already begun.

I’m going to retire in that city,” he declares with assurance. “I dislike referring to someone as the city’s monarch. But that’s exactly what it will end up being.”

We’re attempting to build the city as quickly as we can, he says, adding that the current president has “co-signed” his proposal and that he has a 50-year lease on the property.

The project is still a priority for the Senegalese government’s tourism bureau, SAPCO.

Me Aliou Sow, CEO of SAPCO, stated, “We believe in Akon City and we are all supporting Akon so the Akon city will come to life. The initiative will draw visitors and investors to the area, and SAPCO is totally dedicated to its success.

Akon claims to have changed the architects and construction companies he is collaborating with on the project, and claims that his new partners are aware of the geography of Africa and have “true reputation globally.” His overarching objectives are still lofty.

We desire the massive towers. I want to try to develop something that others in Africa think is impossible.

Akon’s net worth is estimated byseveral celebrity financial websites to be between $60 and $80 million, which has some people wondering where the funding for such a large endeavor will come from. His group asserts that they have a global consortium in place that will finance it through private money.

Before the end of the year, Akon said, excavation work on the site will finally begin. He added that more announcements will be made at a youth center he established for local villagers. He admits that “the whole calendar of construction activity on Akon City is yet to be established.”

The city’s financial system would be “based around” Akon’s own cryptocurrency, Akoin, according to the city’s initial designs, which were called “Crypto City” in August 2020. However, the cryptocurrency has experienced its own setbacks and delays.

He admits,

It wasn’t being managed appropriately. I fully accept blame for that.

The Token of Appreciation (TOA) campaign pre-sale possibility was published on the Akoin website prior to the debut of his Akoin coin.

More than two years before the Akoin coin was really launched, the campaign was unveiled. It was a fundraiser to cover the costs of launching Akoin later down the line.

Money sent for TOAs was framed as a “donation” on the Akoin TOA website page but there was a special incentive to put money in during this period. Contributors were told that for every $1 they put in they would receive up to four Tokens of Appreciation which would later convert to proper Akoin.

“I did genuinely believe in the ecosystem that they were looking to build,” says Marcus (not his real name) who lives in the UK. “Every now and again I’d put in a few thousand pounds.”

The Token of Appreciation campaign concluded in October 2019. The official Akoin Twitter feed claimed it had raised $290,000. Over two years later TOA donors were presented with a choice in the official Akoin Telegram group.

A choice

“We’re now able to give TOA holders a choice,” wrote the admin. “Receive a refund of their original donation or receive an Akoin MasterCard which will have the value of their initial donation.”

Some TOA donors have decided to wait for their promised rewards. For now they have notice of a Token of Appreciation but it doesn’t have any functionality. Others have tried to claim their money back.

“I didn’t ask for the refund, they offered the refunds,” notes Marcus, whose faith in the project was starting to flag. “The refund was meant to come a few weeks later. We are now over a year. And we’re back at the same situation we were years ago with the lack of communication and now everybody’s up in arms.”

Marcus is not alone. In the Akoin Telegram groups I’ve spoken to a number of other people around the world who say that they have asked for refunds but are still waiting to receive their money back.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” says Reggie, an American living in Asia who also donated to the campaign. “Yeah, I’ve gotten upset about this, you know, a number of times.”

I put cases like Marcus’ and Reggie’s to Akon, who denied knowing that donors to the Akoin campaign were still waiting for refunds. He claims he will get involved in rectifying the situation until TOA donors are happy.

Even if I gotta go in my own pocket. I’m dead serious. I would do a world tour just to pay them all back.

The Akoin cryptocurrency itself launched on Bitmart in September 2021. Its value at that time was £0.23 ($0.28) but it has fallen significantly since, preceding a crash in the wider cryptocurrency market. Today Akoin’s price is just £0.01.

There have also been questions over whether it would even be legal for Akoin to operate as the primary payment method at Akon City.

The current legal tender in Senegal is the CFA franc, which is regulated and issued by Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), which share the money. Yahoo Finance reported last year that the “institution warned of the dangers of adopting cryptocurrency and termed it illegal”. We approached the BCEAO to comment on the legality of a city running on cryptocurrency but they didn’t respond.

“Those are a lot of the concerns even I have,” acknowledges Akon. “I want to make sure that however we involve crypto within the city is in a way that it lines up with all the rules and regulations.”

So will ordinary transactions in Akon’s proposed “Crypto City” still take place with his own crypto? It seems unclear. “We’ll have it figured out by the time the city’s up, that’s for sure,” he promises.

But after two years of waiting, not everyone is convinced.

“I think a lot of us we’ve done our research but it panned out like nothing is going on,” says Reggie. “I would like to get my funds back and just walk away”.


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