After similar promise by Akon, Idris Elba wants to build a smart city in Sierra Leone

BY Nii Ntreh March 19, 2024 7:36 AM EDT

British Hollywood star Idris Elba will be pioneering an “eco-city” in the West African state of Sierra Leone, he has revealed. The venue for the smart city is a small island of the Sierra Leonean coast and it was the place of birth of Elba’s father.

The actor, 51, revealed his intentions last week in an interview with the BBC. He has been partnered by childhood friend and longtime business associate Siaka Stevens. They have since received the go-ahead from the Sierra Leonean government for what has been dubbed the Sherbro Island City.

Sherbro is 32 miles (51 km) long and up to 15 miles (24 km) wide.

“Originally we went there thinking how we could bring tourism to the most incredible 19 miles of beachfront,” he told the BBC.

“It’s a dream, you know, but I work in the make-believe business. [This project] is about being self-reliant, it’s about bringing an economy that feeds itself and has growth potential. I’m very keen to reframe the way Africa is viewed… as an aid model. This opportunity is completely different,” the East London-raised actor added.

He explained that the project will imbibe three principles “based on African cultural values”, by prioritizing community, collaboration, and respect for nature. Elba was keen to point out that a modern state-of-the-art city could be environmentally friendly too. The project is expected to commence within a year.

Elba has maintained a proud connection to Africa, from where his parents hail. Born to a Sierra Leonean dad and a Ghanaian mum, Elba and his Somali-Canadian wife are goodwill ambassadors to the continent. The actor has also taken on multiple roles that placed him in the heart of the African condition, including playing Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and Commandant in Beasts of No Nation.

Elba’s announcement will definitely be viewed in terms of a similar promise by Senegalese-American musician and producer Akon. The Grammy Award winner announced in 2018 that he was going to undertake the building of a futuristic city he called Akon City. But well after multiple start dates, the project has still not begun. Akon has since been sued by an associate who claims the Locked Up hitmaker owes $4 million borrowed for the project.