Today, Quartz Africa released an article focused on the Senegalese-American singer Akon who developed plans to build futuristic hub in Africa, which was powered by sustainable energy and Akoin, a cryptocurrency he’s pioneering. Even back at the 2018 Cannes Lion Festival, the singer spoke highly about the transformative possibilities which exist for the African continent if it were to embrace the cryptocurrency boom.
“The utopia which Akon has theorized has some significant logistical hurdles, many of which, there don’t seem to be immediate plans to address,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges. “But, in a way, that really shouldn’t matter. Akon has presented a vision, which, conceptually, isn’t one which should be easily dismissed.”
KE International told Reuters that it plans to begin construction on the project this year. The project is estimated to cost $6 billion, including significant support for job training centers, schools, and health clinics, in addition to necessary improvements in water and energy resources. It isn’t clear that the project has considered land rights, infrastructure issues, or whether it has the necessary financing in place.
“A lot of folks are laughing off the idea of building this futuristic city in an area where there is little existing infrastructure, and the critique is certainly valid. But, what those people are missing is that the concept — the idea that technology could be the key to Africa’s economic future — that concept is both worthwhile and viable,” said Gardner. “Technology exists as the last frontier. Whether we’re talking about sustainable energy or blockchains, technology is the way for innovators, and entire countries, to put themselves on the map for decades.”
As to whether Akon’s vision will come to fruition, Gardner demurred, saying, “Whether Akon City or Akoin, the cryptocurrency in question, is realized is almost besides the point. The reality is that there are places in Africa where you could make a solid case for building a future around blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies. Not necessarily building a city from nothing. I think it makes more sense to incorporate the vision into cities which already exist and boast infrastructure advantages, in addition to having human capital suited to help advance such projects.”
Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.
When asked about potential blockchain hubs, Gardner responded saying, “If you’re taking a look at all the factors in play, I think you could make the case for Ghana and Morocco being in the top tier, even despite the fact that Morocco has banned Bitcoin. They have many of the fundamentals in place where, with strong support from the government and local innovators, they could put something special together. Beyond that, I think you’re looking at countries like Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. Of course, each of those countries have some difficult challenges you would have to really consider. But, that doesn’t mean that they should be written off.”