Digital Energy Challenge For Start-ups - Annual Call for Projects

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Digital Energy Challenge - 2023 Start-up
The Digital Energy Challenge for Start-ups rewards every year 5 to 8 start-ups working on innovative digital projects that aim to increase energy access and improve power grid performance in Africa.

The Challenge runs from 2021 to 2024 and is part of the Digital Energy Facility program. Discover the 2022 edition here and the winning projects here

The three themes for the 2023 call for projects are:

Services GridUniversal electricity access and mini-grids. Digital innovations in the field of mini-grids to maximize their efficiency and impact: energy management systems for the optimal use of clean and renewable energy; software and hardware technologies for an efficient integration of productive use assets; storage systems and algorithms minimizing the use of fossil fuel generators; tools to facilitate interconnections with the main grid and with other mini-grids; systems and algorithms for building-up nanogrids; geospatial data analytics for power demand evaluation and/or credit risk assessment.


Innovative Clean Energy SMEsEfficient grid management. Digital services and products ensuring a proper operation of the power grid, with a focus on: information availability and communication systems; streamlining Business-As-Usual grid operational management practices of the power system; increased power availability and service quality. 


Innovative Digital SolutionResilience and decarbonation of power systems. Digital-based solutions enabling the development of a greener and more resilient power infrastructure (encompassing generation systems as well as the grid): additional renewable capacity; grid stability and flexibility; energy savings at the end-user level (Commercial & Industrial as well as households). 




1st March 2023 - Opening of the Call for Projects 
15th May 2023 23:59 CET - Application deadline
Autumn 2023 - Notification of award winners and bootcamp

Benefits for Challenge winners

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

  • Financial support of up to €150K including: Grant funding to contribute to costs for equipment, software, training and recruitment ; Technical assistance (awarded on a case-by-case basis), which could include project management support, strategic and technical expertise, and accounting/reporting assistance
  • A joint boot camp run by cross-sectorial experts, to 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)

2. Watch the recording of the information webinar in English here or in French here.   

3. Complete the application form and prepare the required documents 

4. Submit your project by 15th May 2023 - 23:59 CET

Eligibility criteria for start-ups

The Call for Projects is open to start-ups and utilities.

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


Eligible countries (2023 edition)

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

Key dates & Application support

For more information: