Akon’s cryptocurrency and city have failed — enter Idris Elba

In 2020, Akon, the bestselling Grammy-nominated musician, made a bold and ultimately absurd claim that he was going to build a Wakanda-style city in Senegal. The mockups were glorious: slim, shiny, curved skyscrapers, new museums, and forested boulevards, all in the heart of a country where 36% of people live below the poverty line.

Part of the scheme relied on ‘Akoin’ – a cryptocurrency created in 2018 and boasting the slogan “One Africa. One Koin.” The crypto, along with the city, was intended to unite Africa behind a greater vision and an accessible, digitized economy.

However, these dreams of a futuristic, Frank Gehry-inspired cityscape in Senegal and a unified African currency soon became nightmares not just for Akon but for everyone.

Read more: El Salvador’s Bitcoin City canceled — but did it ever really exist?

Unpaid loans, delistings, and lawsuits

Despite Akon going from media outlet to media outlet and podcast to podcast extolling the virtues of Akon City and Akoin in 2019 and 2020, the projects themselves soon began to falter.

First, a lawsuit was brought against Akon by his former business partner, then Akon blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for delays, and finally, Sapco, the entity that purchased the land for the city, failed to pay hundreds of individuals who sold their land nearly a decade before.

Akon is still suggesting that the city will be developed — at least partially — by 2026, yet the reality on the ground is looking less and less like Wakanda and more like any other failed urban project.

Meanwhile, Akoin has been delisted from every exchange where it was once available for purchase. Refunds have been handed out to buyers, the Akon City website has been taken down, and Akon has stated on Cameo (the website where celebrities are paid by people to record personalized videos) that he will do no crypto-related requests.

Read more: Crypto city project reportedly wants to lure tech talent with ‘hot girls’

Idris Elba enters the chat

So, now that it’s clear that a new, ridiculously structured city in a poverty-stricken country requires experts and those with the money and means to get the project across the finish line, actor Idris Elba has decided to start his own new city just off the coast of Sierra Leone. Again, a country where a significant portion of the population lives below the poverty line.

The dream is, once again, a rather large one and the attempt to construct an ‘eco city’ looks to be largely reliant on the goodwill and intentions of artists, venture capitalists, and governments. It’s unclear exactly what lies in store for the small island of Sherbro, as no plans have yet been unveiled, but Elba has told journalists that, “the character of the island hopefully will remain intact.”

The move is slightly troubling, as Elba has previously narrated and starred in what can only be described as a propaganda film for the gold industry — an industry that regularly destroys and annihilates entire ecosystems to mine for the precious metal, often at the expense of locals.

A majority of gold mining takes place in poverty-stricken regions desperate for cash, where regulation and human safety are ignored. The gold ‘documentary’ fails to address these issues and concerns in any meaningful way.

Regardless, Elba has suggested that the city will take decades to plan and construct — a much more realistic vision than the one intended for Akon City — and hasn’t planned any silly tokenized currency to accompany it.

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