"What is shared in the village at the moment is the beginning of disappointment," locals at the abandoned site say.
Akon City was billed as a next-generation metropolis that would deliver a much-needed boost to Senegal’s economy when it was unveiled with much fanfare in 2018.
It was the brainchild of Akon — the Senegalese-American singer-songwriter who has released a string of R&B hits.
Indeed, the excitement only grew further in August 2020 when a ceremonial stone was laid in a field where part of the smart city would be based.
But a year on, it seems that little progress has been made when it comes to making Akon City a reality. A new report suggests that the site is still grassland — and a small placard promoting the megaproject has also fallen off.
‘The Beginning of Disappointment’
Visions of twisting skyscrapers, cutting-edge solar power plants and businesses where consumers use a dedicated cryptocurrency are now beginning to look a little far-fetched for some of those who live nearby:
Jules Thiamane, a local who works in the tourism industry, told the AFP news agency:
“They laid the foundation stone with a lot of speeches and promises. Compared to everything that was announced, I don’t think we have seen much yet … What is shared in the village at the moment is the beginning of disappointment.”
The coronavirus pandemic may have had a factor in why such little progress has been made, but local politicians have said they are unsure exactly why things are being delayed.
Ambitious targets had been set for the project. Crucial infrastructure including homes, a school, a hospital and a police station were due to be completed by 2023 — paving the way for the whole city to be finished by 2030.
With Akon’s team and the country’s tourism board tight-lipped, residents are now clinging on to hope that Akon City will go ahead. The project had a proposed budget of $6 billion — a mere 30% less than the budget Senegal had in the whole of 2020.