In a jam-packed classroom at the University of Southern California (USC) last week, five-time Grammy Award nominee Akon and ONE's Director of Government Relations, Jay Heimbach, kicked off the first #PowerProject Campaign Lab, a student innovation incubator aimed at producing ONE’s next social media campaign to combat energy poverty.

In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 600 million people lack access to basic electricity. This severely hampers modern hospital services, job opportunities, and the ability to get a decent education. Energy access creates opportunities for development and is of critical importance in the global fight to eradicate extreme poverty.

ONE is thrilled to collaborate on this campaign with Akon, who recently founded “Akon Lighting Africa,” an initiative aimed at bringing power to 1 million African homes by the end of this year. Through the #PowerProject Campaign Lab, ONE and Akon are engaging and empowering USC students to help create fresh ideas and new approaches in order to raise public awareness and drive action around energy poverty.

During Dr. Steven Lamy’s International Relations 210 class, students pitched their ideas for viral social media campaigns and received immediate feedback from Akon and Heimbach. Submissions are open to all USC students and the best proposal will be part of ONE’s upcoming nationwide campaign, The Power Project.

Akon, whose parents came to the US from Senegal, said: "It’s hard to imagine living without basic electricity, but that’s the reality for 600 million people in Africa. Imagine giving birth or having an operation in a dark hospital with only a flashlight and no other equipment. Want to get a vaccine? Forget it, there are no refrigerators to keep them cold. Pretty much everything you and I take for granted cannot function without power – schools, hospitals, factories, farms, and businesses.

“That’s why I started my initiative, AKON LIGHTING AFRICA, and it’s why I’m working with The ONE Campaign to let Washington know that Americans care about this issue.

“I’m particularly excited to work with young, creative, innovative college students – to help create a powerful social media campaign to promote and drive participation for ONE’s #PowerProject. I am truly excited to usher in a new kind of Internet superstar—millennials who want to make a global impact!”

This June, ONE will launch the #PowerProject – an online letter-writing tool that will allow people to send letters to their Senators in support of bipartisan legislation to bring modern energy access to more than 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa for the very first time – at virtually no cost to American taxpayers. The campaign aims to generate 50,000 letters.

Jay Heimbach, US Director of Government Relations at ONE, said: "To meet our goal of 50 thousand letters to Senators, we need great ideas for getting the message out. That’s why we’re thrilled to be working with Akon and USC students to generate social media campaign ideas in support of The Power Project.

“This issue is absolutely critical to ONE’s core mission of fighting global poverty. We hear all the time from African leaders, citizens, and global development experts that one of the biggest challenges for overcoming extreme poverty is the inability for millions of people to access the basic electricity necessary to power health clinics, businesses, and schools.”

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