Akon – The Solar Power Celebrity… Or is it you?


Over the past few days the story is spreading about RnB star Akon’s quest to bring 600m Africans access to solar powered electricity. It was great to hear about a celebrity undertaking such an endeavor – as news like this usually doesn’t see the light of day in mainstream media or social media for that matter.

The story is nothing but positive and has been re-posted by thousands of people all pointing out that we need to see more of this from our celebrities. This made me think what it actually means to be a celebrity – Its a word used for people that in some way we are celebrating right? The word is derived from the Latin celebritas/celeber, meaning frequented or honoured. So I guess we can say that a celebrity is whoever we as a collective public choose to honour.

The fact is, that Solar Power in Africa is not a new thing. The 600 million Africans being referred to by Akon’s organisation are actually the total amount of Africans that are off the grid in Sub-Saharan Africa. This number has been a target for a number of years by others working to tackle the problem. In fact, Akon is a bit late on the scene! – but why should this mean that all of us are late on the scene?

A few months back an organisation called NOTS Impact enterprises caught my eye when they were mentioned in a blog by Virgin. Since 2009 NOTS have been providing solar energy to remote communities in Africa and have so far sold some 96,000 solar lamps helping 446,500 people! They are also involved in helping communities to produce charcoal in an environmentally friendly way  and have seen sharp decreases in emissions and deforestation as a result.

NOTS are not even half the story – SolarAid is a charity that has been doing this since 2006 and have sold 1.6million solar lights, impacting 10 million lives! Truly amazing, and the kind of news we all want to hear.

I’m sure there are many more organisations I haven’t even heard of, all aiming to eradicate the use of kerosene lamps in Africa by the year 2020. Having another organisation like Akon’s on board is brilliant but at the same time has made me question the way we interact with news. I want to hear more of this!

My point is that we shouldn’t have to wait for a celebrity to do something for us to make it important and worthy of sharing with our peers. The only people we can blame for trashy news is ourselves – If we fed off something else and spread alternative news then we would see stories like this a lot more often.

So I guess my challenge to you is to find an organisation or charity that is doing something that inspires you and share their story with everyone today. Akon needs exposure, but he will get it by himself – its the thousands of other people doing great work that impacts millions of lives that need your help! Maybe then we can inspire people more often and see our news feeds change… Only we can help make it happen.

Photo Credit: NOTS Impact Enterprises & SolarAid