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Digital Energy Challenge - Sustainable Energy in Africa
Nine start-ups and energy companies have been awarded for creating new ways to modernize Africa’s energy sector. The companies are providing innovative ways to improve access to electricity, boosting renewable energy sources and are helping enhance the quality of service.

The Digital Energy Challenge awarded innovations, initiatives and services launched across Africa, from Benin to Madagascar, in a ceremony in Paris last month.

The main categories are: 

  • Universal Electricity Access and Mini-grids 
  • Efficient Grid Management for Public Energy Services
  • Resilience and Decarbonization of Power Systems

The objective: support access to energy, promote renewable energies, and improve the service quality of energy operators.

The Digital Energy Challenge is one of the pillars of the Digital Energy Facility, a program financed by the European Commission and implemented by AFD. 

Further reading: 5 Projects Driving Renewable Energies Around the World

Increase in AI-powered solutions

Many of this year’s winners proposed AI-powered solutions to tackle issues such as predictive maintenance, in which the performance of appliances and electronic goods are monitored and analyzed to identify potential faults ahead of time.

"Digitalization and in particular harnessing the power of AI to boost efficiency and accelerate innovation in the energy sector in Africa are paramount,” Bertrand Walckenaer, AFD’s Deputy CEO, said at the ceremony. 

Further reading: Artificial Intelligence and the SDGs: A New Frontier

Set the date: the next edition of the Challenge will be launched in February 2024.



Theme: Universal electricity access and mini-grids 


Groupe de Recherche et d’Échanges Technologiques (GRET) - Madagascar

Digitalization of a social energy operator to extend the distribution of sustainable electricity to rural areas in Madagascar. 

As stand-alone power systems, mini-grids are essential for providing power to isolated communities unserved by national grids. 

In Madagascar, only 10% of the rural population has access to electricity. This low level of coverage is partly due to the high cost for investment in improving and deploying the power grid.

The GRET project aims to replace conventional meters with smart meters and implement on-site digital solutions to improve energy availability and service efficiency. “We’re deploying a network of IoT sensors in a hydropower plant for two rural municipalities. They will improve monitoring and reduce lead times for failure identification,” says Eva Sahondralalaina, Project Manager – Energy for GRET.

Watch the video interview 


PAM Africa - Nigeria

Mini-grid optimization platform with dynamic tariffs 

Mini-grids have become essential for the achievement of the objectives of universal access to electricity in Africa. But there are still challenges, including the low utilization rate and the high tariffs for the final consumers.  

PAM Africa has set out to deal with this problem by providing grid operators with a multi-purpose platform based on real-time data collection and analysis on energy demand. The objective is to generate dynamic tariffs. “We understand from our data analysis that affordability is seasonal. So, it’s essential to introduce dynamic tariffs that reflect the affordability pattern of the customer,” says Patrick Agese, CEO of PAM Africa.

Watch the video

Theme: Efficient Grid Management


4InA Technologie - Tunisia

Smart AI-based energy management system for industry 

The Tunisian start-up 4InA Technology has developed a solution that minimizes energy losses for industrial consumers through real-time grid monitoring. “We’ve developed an autonomous control system that uses AI to analyze energy grid data, detect anomalies, and determine their underlying causes, while making recommendations to managers on maintenance planning,” says Hinda Zribi, co-founder and Managing Director. This solution aims to increase energy efficiency by 30%.

Watch the video interview

Theme: Resilience and Decarbonization of Power Systems


Evolve Battery & Grid Solutions – South Africa

A virtual power plant with batteries to avoid power cuts and rationing - also known as "load-shedding"

South Africa has suffered from power cuts for many years. To cope with them, tens of thousands of home owners and business owners have invested in individual solar systems and batteries. “Our virtual power plant Evolve is meant to create an intelligent and interconnected web linking thousands of batteries and solar facilities,” says Victor Mallet, founder and CEO of the South African start-up. 

The interconnected grid will help the City of Cape Town manage load and demand, and provide support services. The solution will also enable electricity exchanges between users at peak hours, thus providing a steady source of income. In addition, it will accelerate the take-up rate for green technologies in the context of South Africa’s just energy transition.

Watch the video interview


SLS Energy - Rwanda

Energy storage for telecom towers using recycled batteries 

In Rwanda, considerable efforts have been made to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and more effectively manage waste batteries, especially when they come from end-of-life vehicles. This results in a huge influx of retired batteries on the market. Léandre Berwa, founder of the Rwandan start-up SLS Energy, explains his project: “We’ve created an energy storage solution using recycled batteries for telecom towers, and eventually for mini-grids. This solution can be monitored remotely using IoT sensors and Cloud technology.”   
This project exploits the residual value of retired batteries and recycles them. This, along with its connectivity and Cloud technologies, will contribute to a permanent adoption of electric mobility and renewable energy in the country. 

Watch the video interview 


Theme: Universal electricity access and mini-grids


African Renewable Energy Systems & Solutions (ARESS) and MyJouleBox - Benin

A digital surveillance solution to optimize mini-grid performance in remote areas

Predictive maintenance and remote incident management are key issues for African Renewable Energy Systems & Solutions (Aress), a solar equipment supplier based in Benin. The deployment of the MyJouleBox solution will begin on nine solar mini-grids located in hard-to-reach areas in northern Benin.

This will supply competitive, reliable and sustainable energy to 56,000 consumers in the region. “We’re very pleased to partner with Aress with our innovative communication infrastructure, and also to contribute to optimizing energy consumption and improving the management of mini-grid clients,” says Charlotte Cadoret, CFO of MyJouleBox.      

Watch the video interview

Theme: Efficient Grid Management


Empresa de Electricidade e Água, SA (ELECTRA) and INESC P&D Brasil – Cape Verde

Solar power forecasting using smart meters and meteorological and geographical data

Large-scale solar photovoltaic systems are the most economical option for power generation. However, photovoltaic electricity remains an intermittent energy source that can affect grid stability.

To efficiently manage photovoltaic solar energy, it is therefore essential to forecast the amount of electricity generated by the systems that can be injected into the main grid. “The model developed by the Cape Verde electricity company ELECTRA enables us to fully exploit the data from smart meters.

When we combine this data with geographical and meteorological data, we can really increase the accuracy of solar forecasting,” says   Vladimiro Miranda, President of INESC P&D Brasil. 

Watch the video interview 


Société Béninoise d'Énergie Électrique (SBEE) and Smarterise - Benin 

A digital surveillance platform to optimize maintenance and reduce energy losses 
The digital platform powered by the Cloud and the AI developed by the Nigerian start-up Smarterise will increase the overall efficiency of energy distribution by Société Béninoise d'Énergie Électrique (SBEE). It will also prepare the way for the deployment of a smart grid.

“The benefits of real-time visibility of the grid include minimizing outages, optimizing operations and costs, client satisfaction, and a positive effect on the climate,” says Kevin Elisée Sonon, Head of the Planification Department at SBEE.

Watch the video interview


Société Tunisienne de l’Électricité et du Gaz (STEG) and Nexus Analytica - Tunisia

Integrated platform to monitor, forecast and optimize readings from different energy sources
The Nexus Grid platform is a cutting-edge solution for grid monitoring and management, using IoT and advanced smart sensors.

Société Tunisienne de l’Électricité et du Gaz (STEG) currently does not have information on the energy sources it distributes, such as solar photovoltaic panels, batteries, and wind turbines connected to the grid. “The solution will enable the STEG to monitor energy assets in real-time and make predictive diagnostics with input from techniques for analyzing robust data,” says Nawal El Boghdady, CTO. The STEG will also be able to provide data to commercial, industrial and residential consumers.

Watch the video interview

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