03 September 2020

Shit Job, CNN: Akon City

Two of my Facebook friends posted this CNN piece on Akon's planned Akon City in Senegal. And my goodness, this infuriated me so much that I actually turned my Facebook write up into the first blog post in ages. It's ridiculously lazy journalism. (Of course CNN doing a lousy job on Africa issues is not entirely unheard of)

And note: this isn't about what Akon should or shouldn't do with his - or, in fact, other people's - money. This is about CNN being unbelievably sloppy.

There have been a few attempts to build new cities from scratch (e.g. Konza City, Tatu City, just to stay on the outskirts of Nairobi), and there is enough material to attest to the complexities. I'd like to see some actual information on what this reported USD6bn investment looks like: Where do the funds come from, are the funds commercial or concessionary or mixed, what entity will invest them, which partner firms are involved etc.

(probably accidental that this particular 'building' looks like an iteration of a Rabbit vibrator)

I had a look at Akon City's website and for starters, an English editor might have been a worthwhile investment. Then the concept is incredibly vague, with swirly, z-list wannabe-Zaha Hadid renderings and no plans. On the basis of this, you can't raise USD6bn or anything near it: https://akoncity.com/districts/. Konza City's renderings at some point at least had a nifty little fly-through thingie.

And then I had a look at the three organisations firms listed:

KE International: https://ke-intl.com/about. They are curious! They claim to have a project portfolio of USD8bn - a stretch, I think. The website shows a bunch of white US American guys. I ran their names through Google: none of them has an actual online footprint!

Sapco Senegal's website doesn't open, but Google suggests it's a parastatal, Senegal's Société d'Aménagement et de Promotion des Côtes et Zones Touristiques du Sénégal - the agency to promote coastal and tourist areas. Fine. But a body likely to play a key role in a large-scale real estate development?

Then we have BAD Consult. They list a whole bunch of projects. I fished out one randomly: Basra Sports City. BAD claim a project volume (or 'coast') of USD162m. I ran Basra Sports City through Google, and the Wikipedia entry says that the contractors for the USD500m project were an Iraqi and two US American firms. No mention of BAD. They could have been a sub contractor. Wikipedia says the project has been finished in 2013, but BAD don't show actual photographs, which should be available now. https://badconsult.com/portfolio-item/basra-sport-city/

I then ran BAD Consult and Bakri through Google and for pages, pretty much the only references to them are in the context of Akon City.

And none of this has even gone anywhere hear the mythical USD6bn. Financing and investing USD6bn WILL involve incorporated entities and law firms and a lot of paperwork.

All of this online open-source work cost me ... 45min? And I'm not getting paid for an article. Shit job, CNN.

And the article rehashes the 'solar energy for 600m Africans' tagline, too. There are so many solar energy companies and initiatives focusing on the retail market that Akon really isn't the avant garde nor the sole or the biggest player.

Both topics can and should be covered with some proper reporting, and this isn't arcane insider knowledge.


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