Akon takes the stage at the Blockdown Virtual Conference this evening as one of the most influential figures in blockchain’s shift from niche financial tool for techies to the mass adoption of digital currencies. The creator of Akoin discussed the reasons for his transition from music sensation to philanthropist and crypto-entrepreneur with Cointelegraph Magazine.

“The Mandelas... the Bob Marleys… There have been people fighting for us all the way from the Martin Luther Kings to the Malcolm X’s.”

And now, Akon wants to take that fight further.

Although he has been aware of cryptocurrencies since meeting Brock Pierce back in 2010, the notion that they could be used to fight government corruption in Africa took hold later.

How a little change inspired a lot of change

For Akon, the inspiration struck on a flight from Senegal to France as he returned from spending time on Akon Lighting Africa, a program that provides solar-powered lighting solutions in African countries.

“I had a pocket full of CFA, which is our local currency. I was rushed to the airport and didn’t get a chance to transfer it while I was at the airport, so I was like, I’ll just wait until I get to France and I’ll trade it over.”

But although France had created the currency, Akon found it to be useless when he landed there.

“They told me, ‘Well, I’m sorry we can’t trade that.’” And when Akon questioned that statement, the answer led to the idea for Akon City, a ‘sustainable eco-tourism smart city’ in Senegal.

Because the answer he was given about his pocketful of change was truly revealing: “It has no value.”

“And at that moment, I was like, okay. Something has to be done about this. This is just bullshit. I’m not standing for this. We have to have our own currency.”

“That was a moment that made me fully engaged.”