AKOIN, an addition to CFA franc?

“I think that blockchain and crypto could be the saviour for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down.” AKON

By our guestblogger Nelly Chatue-Diop

On a panel titled “Branding Africa: Blockchain, Entrepreneurship and Empowering the Future” at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June 2018, Akon made the announcement of launching a cryptocurrency intented to serve as a central form of exchange in a new crypto city he plans to build in Senegal. Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and ICO have been highlighted, in media, since the second half of year 2017  through many projects across Asia, EU and US. This is the first significant project leveraging this technology in Francophone Africa.

Akon was born 45 years ago in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, but spent much of his childhood in Kaolack Region, Senegal. He is a Platinum-selling performer and Grammy nominated singer. Following this announcement, reactions in some media outlets, like the Guardian or The Verge, have spanned from doubt to mockery although Akon has demonstrated these past few years that he was serious about implementing projects aimed at developing Africa. Actually, he moved from a very successful music career (first solo artist to be featured in the number one and two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart twice) to a life of dedication in giving back to the African communities.

For instance, in 2014, he launched a project called Akon Lighting Africa which aims at providing electricity in Africa, through solar energy. The project now provides electricity in 15 African countries and employs over 5,000 mainly young people who install and maintain solar equipment.

Given the success of the solar project, Akon Lighting Africa, in tackling one of the main infrastructure the struggling African people face on a daily basis, we should not be too quick to dismiss Akon’s dream of turning the 2000 acres of land he was gifted by the Senegalese president in Dakar into a Wakanda-like city.

“Parallel to AKOIN being established as stable currency alternative throughout Africa — and fueling entrepreneurship — Akon Crypto City is in development and has opportunities for crypto experiences to be painted throughout this one of a kind city; a never before seen opportunity [sic] for brands, businesses and high-profile individuals to do amazing things in this closed environment, welcoming anyone looking to step into the future.” AKON

Although the ambition of the token is to create a whole ecosystem leveraging digital and real-life platforms, blockchain and mobile technology, we cannot help but wonder how this new crypto currency may compete against the current currency CFA franc used in western and central African countries. Simultaneously will these new developments boost youth entrepreneurship and play a significant role in reducing youth unemployment?

They are currently many divided debates around CFA franc. Some activists criticized it as being a colonial hangover and wish for a new unified currency that will be managed by a common African central bank. Others suggest we change the pegging of CFA franc from EUR to a multi-currencies basket composed of EUR, USD and YUAN. Finally, there are still many voices who think that despite all critics on CFA franc, it brings something essential to countries sharing who are using it: stability and lower inflation .

So clearly, a sound alternative which does not entail relying on a new central authority (African central bank or a mix of foreign central banks) to devise appropriate monetary policies has yet to be found. Akon might be paving a new path as he wants this project and new tools to bring “the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down”.(Akon during a Meredith sponsored panel moderated by People deputy editor JD Heyman)

Given that Africa warmly embraces the digital era as illustrated by the amazingly fast mobile penetration; AKOIN, a new decentralised, censorship-resistant, digital currency could definitely stir a revolution that would transform the lives of many. As Akon says it “blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways, because [they bring] the power back to the people.”

Finally, more than just a cryptocurrency, AKOIN project is an ecosystem for digital platforms. This should reinforce youth entrepreneurship across the continent skilled at building Dapps (Blockchain-powered applications) to address consumer needs in areas such as retail, education, health services and many more. Once such a digital ecosystem is live and thriving, its benefits will spill over offline businesses (restaurants, office maintenance, etc) creating a virtuous circle for mutual growth.

We are definitely rooting for the success of this ambitious project.