Actor Idris Elba is spearheading an eco-friendly smart city on Sherbro Island in Sierra Leone, complete with the country’s first wind and solar farm. Olivia Palamountain reports

British actor and DJ Idris Elba is now turning his hand to property development, embarking on an ambitious project to transform Sherbro, a remote island off the coast of Sierra Leone, into a futuristic eco-friendly city.

In collaboration with his childhood friend, Siaka Stevens, Elba established Sherbro Alliance Partners to develop the island, which is disconnected from the mainland and has been largely forgotten.

As reported by The Telegraph, artist impressions of the city depict a glittering array of glassy looking buildings surrounding lakes and well-tended lawns, with a futuristic bridge straddling the highway.

The project, partly funded by the private and public sectors, will be designated as a special economic zone with its own legal and economic system.

The development plan for Sherbro includes an eco-tourism belt, beach tourism, and cultural tourism areas. The island will also feature electric vehicles, including cars and motorcycles, which can be charged at on-site battery stations.

Inspired to uplift his father’s native country, Elba also aims to bring wind-powered renewable electricity to Sierra Leone for the first time.

Octopus Energy Generation, one of Europe’s largest investors in renewable energy, will build five wind turbines as part of a wind and solar farm, marking the entry of wind-powered renewable energy in Sierra Leone.

The project represents a significant step towards sustainable development and renewable energy in Sierra Leone, with the potential to serve as a model for other regions in Africa.

In an interview with the BBC, Elba emphasised the importance of self-reliance and creating an economy that feeds itself with growth potential. He expressed his desire to reframe the way Africa is viewed, moving away from an aid-based model.

The project aims to improve the lives of the island’s 40,000 residents by providing infrastructure, schooling, medical care, and enterprise opportunities.

As the project progresses, Idris Elba and his team remain committed to their vision of creating a self-sufficient, eco-friendly city that showcases the potential for sustainable development in Africa while respecting the island’s unique character and environment.

Akon CityElba is not the first superstar with designs on creating a city for the future. Senegalese-American music artist Akon (aka Aliaune Thiam) unveiled plans for a city on the Senegal coast five years ago.

The entrepreneur and philanthropist laid the first stone for US$6 billion Akon City in Mbodiène, a coastal village 100km from the capital, Dakar in 2020.

As reported by The Guardian, Akon has said in the past that his eponymous city would not only provide employment, but would also be a sanctuary for African-Americans seeking to reconnect with their African roots.

The plan was for the government-backed smart city to be powered by a unique cryptocurrency known as Akoin and funded by unnamed investors.

However, the project has been beset by delays and controversy, with some critics likening it to a Ponzi scheme, which Akon denies.

Additionally, while Akon initially had backing from Senegal’s outgoing president, Macky Sall, and the Society for the Development and Promotion of Coasts and Tourist Zones (Sapco), which loaned the singer US$2 million for the project, according to local media, Sapco has sent Akon a formal notice that if the project has not advanced by next year, its contract with him will be terminated (The Guardian).