Senegalese-American rapper and songwriter Akon called for greater African unity as he arrived in his home country to perform Friday at the world’s biggest celebration of black arts and culture.
The six-time Grammy nominated singer, who recently released a single on which he collaborated with the late Michael Jackson, will perform at the final concert of the World Festival of Black Arts in St Louis, 265 kilometres (160 miles) from the capital, Dakar.
Hundreds of artistes, singers and intellectuals from Africa and its diaspora have come to Senegal for the three-week festival, which is themed on an African Renaissance, with many preaching greater unity on the continent.
“Things like this actually create the environment for us to move together as one people,” Akon, whose real name is Alioune Thiam, said of the festival, as he addressed a press conference.
“The more we realise what we can do together as a unit, the farther we will get as an African nation.
“The one thing we always lack is unity, we always stay segregated. Even though Africa is one of the biggest continents, we never stay together as a people,” he said.
The third festival of its kind to celebrate black identity, with the first edition hosted in Dakar in 1966, has been widely criticised for its expense, reported to be around 30 billion CFA francs (about 46 million euros).
Asked by journalists how much he was paid to perform, Akon said he was giving the concert for free and the government had only paid the travel and hotel costs for him and his 32-member crew.
“The kind of money I am actually paid for a concert is nothing Senegal would really be able to afford. It’s about uplifting the people.
“If I can get the economy up to where it needs to go in Senegal, then I can do… shows here all the time and get paid what I am worth,” he said.