Idris Elba ‘reframing’ Africa with Sierra Leone smart city

Idris Elba poses for photographers at the photo call for the film 'The Harder They Fall' during the 2021 London Film Festival in London Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.
Idris Elba poses for photographers at the photo call for the film (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Renowned actor Idris Elba is spearheading the development of a groundbreaking smart city initiative in Sierra Leone, with a mission to challenge prevailing stereotypes about Africa.

Collaborating closely with Siaka Stevens, the grandson of Sierra Leone’s former president bearing the same name, Elba is driving forward plans for an eco-city situated on the rural Sherbro Island, just off the coast of West Africa.

In a bid to revolutionize the energy landscape, Elba and Stevens have teamed up with Octopus Energy Generation, a leading renewable energy company. The core of their vision entails the establishment of a cutting-edge wind and solar farm to supply sustainable power to the city’s inhabitants.

This ambitious endeavour comes as a response to the stark reality that currently, less than a third of households in Sierra Leone have access to electricity.

Beyond the mere construction of infrastructure, Elba and his collaborators envision a paradigm shift in perceptions of Africa. By showcasing innovative solutions and fostering sustainable development, they aim to challenge preconceived notions and catalyze positive change on the continent.

The project stands as a testament to the potential for collaboration and innovation to drive meaningful progress in underserved communities.

“Are we ever gonna make a profit? I don’t think so, but it is about being self-reliant, it’s about bringing an economy that feeds itself, that has growth potential,” Elba told the BBC Newsday programme.

“I’m very keen to sort of reframe the way Africa is viewed. We often view the framing of Africa as an aid model and this opportunity is completely different,” he added.

Elba told Newsday that the city is intended to attract business and innovation, while also appealing to holidaymakers and empowering local communities.

The actor also plans to set up a film studio there, along with a retirement home for his mother.

Elba’s mother is a Ghanaian who moved to the UK, while his late father was of Sierra Leonean origin.