Idris Elba shares ‘big dreams’ to build futuristic eco-city in Sierra Leone and reveals reason behind innovative plans on the island off coast of Africa

Photo of author
Written By Maya Cantina

MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MLB MLB MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL MBL

  • A budget has not been specified but the scheme will likely cost billions of dollars

Idris Elba has revealed plans to transform a remote island off the coast of Sierra Leone, the West African nation where his father was born, into an eco-friendly ‘smart city’.

The British star said he wants to make Sherbro Island an ‘afro-dynamic eco-city’ – an urban hub for the whole of Africa combining sustainability, community and economic growth.

Sherbro Alliance Partners (SAP) say the development will be done while protecting its ‘delicate ecosystem’, with the 230 sq mile island covered with mangrove forests and an important nesting site for sea turtles.

Home to just 40,000 people, most of whom work in fishing and rice farming, the actor and DJ hopes to cultivate economic growth and bring prosperity to the former British colony.

The development scheme has not got a specified budget but is likely to run into the billions of dollars, with SAP seeking out investment and Mr Elba admitting that it is a ‘big dream’.

The development scheme has not got a specified budget but is likely to run into the billions of dollars (artist’s impression)

The British star said he wants to make Sherbro Island an 'afro-dynamic eco-city'. Pictured here with his wife Sabrina Dhowre Elba

The British star said he wants to make Sherbro Island an ‘afro-dynamic eco-city’. Pictured here with his wife Sabrina Dhowre Elba

Most of the island's 40,000 inhabitants live in Bonthe. Picture shows run-down buildings in the area

Most of the island’s 40,000 inhabitants live in Bonthe. Picture shows run-down buildings in the area

Idris Elba's late father Winston was born in Sierra Leone (pictured together in 2011)

Idris Elba’s late father Winston was born in Sierra Leone (pictured together in 2011) 

‘Never in my lifetime would I have thought I could build the foundation for a new smart-city… I’m not qualified for that,’ he told the BBC. ‘But I am qualified to dream big.’

What began as a mission to bring tourism to the island, which boasts stunning white beaches and palm trees, soon grew into an innovative plan to develop the area in a more sustainable way.

‘It’s about being self-reliant, it’s about bringing an economy that feeds itself and has growth potential,’ Mr Elba said.

‘I’m very keen to reframe the way Africa is viewed… as an aid model. This opportunity is completely different.’

The Luther actor was brought into the project by childhood friend Siaka Stevens, the grandson of Sierra Leone’s former president of the same name, who he grew up with in London.

Stevens had been looking for development opportunities in his birth country, but after bringing Elba on board the pair soon realised a boutique hotel was not the best avenue to go down.

They decided instead to set up SAP and work towards building Sherbro Island City, striking a deal with the Sierra Leonean government to develop the island. 

President Julius Maada Bio, who is from Sherbro’s district, said his government believes the development will make the island ‘an economic engine for our country and neighbours’.

Mocked-up plans of what the city could look like, with glassy office and residential buildings

Mocked-up plans of what the city could look like, with glassy office and residential buildings 

An artist's impression shows pristine lawns and residential buildings in the futuristic city

An artist’s impression shows pristine lawns and residential buildings in the futuristic city

The actor said the island, which was ‘once under British reign, is now my canvas for change.’

‘As a British man deeply rooted in Africa, I’m steering a transformative project on Sherbro Island,’ he wrote on X last week.

‘Envision green energy, pioneering innovations, and a melting pot for global talents to flourish. We’re preserving our heritage whilst fostering our future.’

Mocked-up plans of what the city could look like show glassy buildings, pristine lawns and business and entertainment complexes.

But the current reality of life on the island is far removed from these artist’s impressions, with many of its inhabitants living in run-down shanty towns and with limited infrastructure.

The actor was brought into the project by childhood friend Siaka Stevens (pictured left)

The actor was brought into the project by childhood friend Siaka Stevens (pictured left)

A church on Sherbro Island, off the coast of Sierra Leone.

Local people on Sherbro Island

A church on Sherbro Island, off the coast of Sierra Leone (left) and local people who live on the island, which is home to a population of around 40,000

Only around 28 per cent of Sierra Leone’s population has access to electricity and there is currently no mains electricity on the island, but there are hopes that wind farms and a possible ‘micro-grid’ will help power the island’s growth.

Octopus Energy, which has partnered with SAP, said it is also looking into turning Sherbro into an ‘energy island’, installing battery stations for electric vehicles to be charged from.

As well as having Octopus on board, SAP has signed a contract with a number of partners including Lloyds, which says it will help to ‘support economic growth opportunities’ and advise on insurance and risk.

Octopus Energy, which has partnered with SAP, said it is looking into the possibility of turning Sherbro into an 'energy island'

Octopus Energy, which has partnered with SAP, said it is looking into the possibility of turning Sherbro into an ‘energy island’

But huge investment will be needed if the Hollywood star’s dream is to be made into a reality, and no timeline or specific budget has been made clear for its completion.

‘Obviously, this is Sierra Leone: it’s one of the poorest countries in the world, so investment isn’t rushing through the door,’ he told CNN. 

‘I’ve suddenly found myself in the middle of trying to figure out how to pull this together, and what I did was get the best-in-class thinkers on how to build a robust investment framework for the international players to look at Africa in a different way,’ he went on, ‘And that’s what Sherbro Island is.’

The 51-year-old added: ‘That’s a very long-winded way of saying it’s my retirement plan.’ 

BBCIdris Elba

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

Leave a Comment

MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL MlL