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Financed by the European Union and implemented by AFD, the Digital Energy Facility program is launching a call for projects on April 6, 2021. It is aimed at public energy operators and start-ups that support digital innovation in the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa.

To support the digitalisation and modernisation of the energy sector, the Digital Energy Facility is launching an annual Call for Projects. The objectives of the Facility, aligned with AFD’s Energy Transition Strategy, are to support the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid, increase energy access and improve the performance of power utilities to reduce technical and commercial losses. 

The first annual Call for Projects opens on 6 April 2021, and is part of a four-year Digital Energy Challenge. Three other calls will follow. By targeting key energy players in the digital and energy ecosystem, both start-ups and public power utilities in partnership with technology service providers, the Challenge will directly support the development of innovative solutions for better energy access and utility performance improvement. 

The 2021 Call for Projects has a geographical scope of sub-Saharan Africa* and in addition to focusing on innovative technologies, will foster synergies and local partnerships between utility companies and private energy players to encourage sharing of know-how and best-practices. 

Who can apply?
The Digital Energy Challenge has two categories and is open to several energy players:

  1. Digital Energy Challenge for Start-ups for pre-seed/early-stage activities, to help local start-ups scale up their digital innovations or digital transformation projects for better energy access and energy services for the grid or general population.
  2. Digital Energy Challenge for Utilities for innovative public/private partnerships, to help local utilities test and scale up digital innovations with innovative technology/service providers for better energy access and energy services for the population.

Advantages for Challenge winners 

Technical and financial support will be offered to a dozen winning projects each year thanks to an annual budget of €1.5M from the European Union.

Challenge winners can benefit from:

Project funding in the form of a grant for equipment and software purchases, training, recruitment costs for start-ups, and product/service purchase costs linked to technology/service providers for utilities;     

Technical assistance for all utilities and certain start-ups on a case-by-case basis, such as project management support, strategic and technical expertise and accounting/reporting assistance;

A boot camp run by cross-sectorial experts to support project implementation, foster synergies between project winners and share best-practices;   

Increased visibility for the project through widespread social media communication campaigns piloted by AFD during the selection phase, award ceremony, bootcamp and for a period of time after these events. 

What are the main project eligibility criteria?

For both categories, Start-ups and Utilities, all projects must have a digital component, incorporating telecom, computer or cloud-based technology as a core element of the project. In addition, all projects must be innovative, either intrinsically or innovative for the local market or country, and finally, project scopes must be local, i.e. the company/organisation must be headquarted or have management activities in the country where their activity or project takes place.

What business activities are covered?

There are three themes per category, all identified as fields of innovation in the digital and energy spheres and specifically chosen to support the high sectorial needs and strong market dynamics. The themes will be reviewed annually.

For the first year of the Challenge, the themes are:

For start-ups: 

  • Services to the grid
  • Innovative clean energy solutions, equipment and appliances for SMEs (productive use)
  • New/innovative digital solutions for Energy Access businesses 

For utilities in partnership with innovative technology/service providers:

  • Universal energy access
  • Quality of service management 
  • Solutions offering a high integration rate of renewable energy into power systems 

Are you interested? 

A full application pack will be available from 6th April 2021 on www.afd.fr/en

To request more information or for any questions, please contact us

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*Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Democratic Republic, Congo Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.