The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way the world works, disrupting the status quo and greatly accelerating emerging trends.
Cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, are being looked to by some high-profile investors in the aftermath of unprecedented government spending this year—designed to offset the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Grammy-nominated R&B singer Akon is forging ahead with plans for his cryptocurrency-powered Akon City in Senegal, which he has previously branded a “real-life Wakanda,” with the president of Akon’s akoin cryptocurrency, Jon Karas, saying the coronavirus pandemic has made the development of Akon City “more necessary.”
“Akon City and the akoin cryptocurrency are much more necessary now,” said Karas, speaking over the phone, adding the cryptocurrency will help “create better pathways, bank the unbanked, and create better, more sustainable, futures for the people of Senegal.”
Last month, a special envoy to the World Health Organization warned that the world was still at the “beginning” of the pandemic, and, while much of Africa has so far been spared a high Covid-19 mortality rate, the economic and financial impact is taking its toll.
“Millions of people across Africa are likely to lose their jobs with many potentially forced into extreme poverty due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Karas. “It’s forcing us to get more creative.”
Plans for both Akon City, a 2,000-acre development 60 miles to the south of Senegal’s capital Dakar that Akon laid the first stone for last month, and the akoin tokens that will power it, were first revealed in 2018. Akon City organizers signed a $6 billion construction contract with U.S. engineering firm KE International in June this year and have said they plan to complete the project by 2030.
A whitepaper for the akoin cryptocurreny token was published in March and detailed what it describes as “atomic swaps” between cryptocurrencies, fiat currencies, and mobile phone credits, which are widely used across Africa. Akoin, built on top of the Stellar (XLM) network—in addition to payments between Akon City locals and businesses—will help the city use blockchain technology for everything from taxes to transportation.
“This is going to be a green, smart city,” Karas said.
Meanwhile, Karas is developing plans to expand akoin to other countries and cities in Africa and even into Southeast Asia. Earlier this year, it was announced that the akoin cryptocurrency would first launch in another smart city in Kenya, the Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC).
“It’s about tapping these young and innovative populations,” Karas said. “In Africa they leapfrogged computers and went straight to mobile; a trend that’s also seen in Thailand and Vietnam.”
However, Karas played down akoin’s broader ambitions, mindful of the regulatory reaction to Facebook’s plans for its maligned libra cryptocurrency that’s been hobbled by governments around the world who feared the social media giant was biting off more than it could chew.
“Akoin is a companion to the Senegal national currency [the West African CFA franc],” Karas said. “We’re looking to help support the government and work with them. We’re not competing or trying to replace national currencies.”