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AFD Digital Challenge
AFD's “Shared Innovation” series highlights innovative programs created or developed in our partner countries.

For its fourth edition, the AFD Digital Challenge is rewarding ten innovative African start-ups currently working to find the solutions necessary to create sustainable cities. These projects are helping to build inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban infrastructure in Africa.

The AFD Digital Challenge is a competition focused on innovation in Africa, addressing the dual issues of the digital transition and sustainable cities. The ten winners selected for this year’s competition were announced at the virtual Emerging Mediterranean event, organized in Marseille on December 14. 

Further reading: The Ten Winners of the 2020 AFD Digital Challenge

These African start-ups support digital solutions that help to build inclusive and sustainable urban infrastructure in Africa. Some of the winning themes include improving urban services, city planning for the most vulnerable populations, economic development and improving communication between local authorities and residents.

Digital technology as a driver of urban development 

In Africa, urbanization is progressing at unprecedented scale and rate. This trend is set to continue, with forecasts predicting that by 2050, African cities will be home to almost one billion additional residents. There are many risks associated with this rapid and diverse urbanization, such as demographic imbalances, the establishment of shantytowns and increased pollution. These issues are exacerbated by climate instability. The UN’s eleventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), to “make cities and communities sustainable,” thus presents more of a challenge now than ever before. 

Further reading: “Shared Innovation”, all articles

In light of these challenges, digital technology represents a powerful driver of sustainable urban development in Africa. “We work in close contact with digital entrepreneurs in Africa. They have demonstrated that by developing frugal innovations, solutions to major public challenges can be found at a citizen level,” says Aissatou Ndiaye, Project Team Manager for AFD’s Digital Division.

Creating the cities of tomorrow

From the 650 applications received, the jury rewarded ten projects, which all have the potential to transform a city, an urban area and, in broader terms, to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people. “This year's winning start-ups have two things in common: digital technology is the basis for their innovation, and the project has a positive social impact. Whether in the early or more advanced stages of project development, the AFD Digital Challenge entrepreneurs are the embodiment of the Tech For Good philosophy,” says Aissatou Ndiaye.

For example, in Nigeria, the start-up Capture Solutions West Africa is developing a digital tool to optimize household waste management. In Mali, the Map Action digital app can be used by all citizens to map, and thus publicize, local environmental issues. Innovations such as these will help ensure the resilience of tomorrow's cities.

Each of the ten 2020 AFD Digital Challenge winners receives a grant of €20,000, as well as one-year’s support from a specialist in training business stakeholders in the digital transformation process. 

See this year’s 10 Winning Initiatives for AFD’s Digital Challenge