in Senegal

has set his sights on building a sprawling US$ 6 billion in his Senegal homeland to welcome Africans of the diaspora to their “home back home”.

As he was growing up in the US state of New Jersey, where his family moved when he was seven, “ran into a lot of African-Americans that didn’t really understand their culture,“ the 47-year-old said.

“So I wanted to build a or a project like this that will give them the motivation to know that there is a home back home,“ he said, adding that he had received the blessing – and advice –of Mbodiene’s elders.

will offer hotels, a university, hospitals, business and leisure centres including a casino, as well as movie studios, all featuring futuristic designs by architect Hussein Bakri, with African sculptures for inspiration.

Wakanda, the fictional African of the Black Panther comic book series, served as additional inspiration, acknowledged.

Speaking alternately in English and Wolof, the dominant language in Senegal, the talent with hits including Locked Up and Smack That said that would also include a “village of African cultures”.

“As you come in from America, or Europe or anywhere in the diaspora, and you feel like you want to visit Africa, we want Senegal to be your first stop,“ said , whose real name is Alioune Badara Thiam.

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The musician and green entrepreneur who set up Lighting Africa to boost solar power on the continent said the new would be built using renewable materials of African origin to the extent possible.

He said the project would cost an overall US$ 6 billion but would not name the principal investors because of confidentiality clauses.

“We are still talking with partners and investors,“ said, adding that local investment “no matter how small or how big” would be welcome.

No ‘pipe dream’

said he told Bakri – who accompanied him at the press conference – “I need a building that looks like a statue that you can take home… like real African sculptures that they make in the villages.”

He added: “The shapes might be weird, but they are African.”

Work will start early next year, with completion of the first phase set for 2023.

The town will initially cover some 55 hectares (135 acres) but grow to 500 hectares by the end of the decade, with for artificial islands and a marina that can accommodate cruise ships.

Bakri said the ’s population would eventually reach 300,000.

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Senegal’s Tourism Minister Alioune Sarr hailed the project, saying he hoped it would give the lie to “Cassandras… who always view new projects as pipe dreams” and vowing to help see that it is completed on schedule.

, who said the project would benefit the local people, notably young Senegalese, is not the only international star with West African roots involved in such investments.

British actor Idris Elba — son of a Ghanaian mother and Sierra Leonean father — to build an eco-tourism complex on an island off Sierra Leone.

Elba visited the former British colony in December last year.- AFP

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