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African-Americans "Have It Good," Compared To Africans—Akon Tells Al Jazeera

By Al Jazeera English Network
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• Akon asks why dissatisfied African-Americans don't "just go back home… back to Africa"

• Says a housing project in New York would be “a five-star hotel” compared to his upbringing in Senegal

• Says African-Americans fear visiting Africa and would 'be crying to come back to America' if they went

In this Saturday's episode of Talk To Al Jazeera, five-time Grammy nominee Akon tells Folly Bah Thibault that African-Americans should acknowledge “the rights… and the blessing they do, you know, have actual access to.” Last year, the killings of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson led to protests against police brutality targeting African-Americans.

When asked if he sympathized with the protesters, Akon said he could understand their frustration as “the system in America was never built for black people.”

But Akon added, “I don't want to speak too much for them, because I think I might have some knowledge they might not quite have, because I'm in the position where I have experienced Africa and I've experienced the United States. I always felt like Africa was for Africans. So when I see African-Americans in America dealing with all these issues, my first question is: 'Why don't they just go back home… Back to Africa.'”

Born in America but partly raised in Senegal, Akon tells Folly, “In Africa, the way I grew up, let's just pick a [housing] project in New York, for instance: that's a five-star hotel compared to the environment I came up in… They actually get money from the government, there actually are programs that help the impoverished and the poor, and you get food stamps. I mean, they have it good, compared to Africa, you follow… If these groups were to be taken from the environment where they are now to the same 'equal' environment in Africa, they would be crying to come back to America.”

He says African-Americans should put their challenges in perspective by visiting Africa as tourists. “How many African-Americans do you know actually consider Africa as a vacation spot?... Even, just for knowledge, just to know where they came from, just to get an idea of what that is. There is so much fear instilled in them that they wouldn't even want to go there to visit. You mention Africa, they start shaking.”

Akon, who has sold over 40m albums and had 45 Billboard Hot 100 songs, also speaks about his charity work in Africa; his views on Band Aid 30's recent Ebola fundraising single; whether he's a misogynist; his investments in Africa; and his upcoming five-part album, Stadium, which he says will be out in 2015.

Watch and embed the promo at:

For more information, visit http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/ or follow #ajafrica on Twitter.

The episode will premiere on Saturday, 24 Jan 20015 at 0430GMT, with repeats on Sunday, 25 January, at 0830GMT & 1930GMT, and Monday, 26 January at 1430 GMT.

About Folly Bah Thibault

Folly Bah Thibault is a French-Guinean Journalist with over 15 years experience in radio and television broadcasting. She began her career in Washington D.C as a radio producer at the Voice of America. She later moved to France where she worked for news outlets such as Radio France International and People Television. Before joining Al Jazeera in 2010, Folly was the senior evening news anchor for the international news channel, France 24, based in Paris.

She's covered major news events such as the 2004 Asian Tsunami, the US election in 2008 and the Arab Spring on Al Jazeera. Folly has also interviewed some of the world's top political leaders, including current Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, former Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani and French Far Right leader Marine Le Pen. She holds a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from Howard University and a Master's in International Communication from the American University in Washington D.C. Fluent in English, French and Fulani, Folly also speaks conversational Swahili.