French Agency for Development (AFD) Digital Energy Challenge 2021 for African Start-ups (70,000€ prize)

Application Deadline: June 30th 2021

The Digital Energy Challenge for Start-ups will reward 5-8 start-ups every year for four years, for innovative digital projects that aim to increase energy access and improve power grid performance. The 2021 Call for Projects focuses on sub-Saharan Africa.

The three themes of the 2021 edition are:

Services to the grid such as grid loss reduction, renewable energy integration, power production forecasting, demand side management, network planning, capacity building etc. 

Innovative clean energy solutions, equipment and appliances for SMEs for example in the domains of agriculture, light manufacturing, commercial and retail or healthcare. 

Implementation of new/innovative digital solutions for energy access businesses including hardware such as kits/meters for off-grid solar or clean cooking applications; or software such as CRM, last-mile distribution optimisation, loan repayment & PAYGO, dynamic monitoring etc.

Eligibility Requirements

The start-up must meet the following criteria:

  • Created less than 10 years ago
  • Be in the pre-seed/early-stage financing phase i.e. less than €1M funding raised
  • Annual turnover of less than €1M
  • Employ between 1 and 99 people full-time.    

NGOs can apply under the Start-up category if the project meets one of the additional following criteria:

  • The project is set up as a company as a branch of the NGO
  • The project has a dedicated team and business plan, and clearly targets business sustainability/profitability (e.g. plans to spin off as an independent entity).

Finally, the start-up’s project must meet one of the three above-mentioned themes and be:

  • Digital i.e. based on a telecom, computer or cloud-based technology 
  • Innovative, either intrinsically or compared to the local market
  • Local i.e. headquartered or with project management activities in the country of the project


For every annual Call for Projects, the 5-8 winning start-ups will each benefit from:

  • A grant of €70K (maximum) to contribute to costs for equipment, software, training and recruitment
  • The possibility to request technical assistance (awarded on a case-by-case basis), which could include project management support, strategic and technical expertise, and accounting/reporting assistance

In addition, start-ups and utility partnership winners can take advantage of:

  • A joint boot camp run by cross-sectorial experts, which will support project implementation, provide sectorial insights, foster synergies between project winners and encourage best-practice sharing
  • Widespread communication campaigns piloted by AFD during the selection phase, award ceremony, bootcamp and for a period of time after these events.

How to Apply

1. Download the Start-up Application Pack (email address required)START-UPS APPLICATION PACK

2. Watch the information webinar recording from 28th April here

3. Complete the application form and prepare the required documents 

4. Submit your project before 30th June 2021 23:59 CET

For More Information:

Visit the Official Webpage of the AFD Digital Energy Challenge

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