The EU and AFD are launching the Digital Energy Challenge, which will run for four years with an annual Call for Projects. The objective of the Challenge is to support the development of innovative solutions for energy access, the integration of renewable energy, and utility performance improvement.

The digital revolution is key to tackling energy access issues in developing countries. In Africa alone, 600 million people, 2 out of 3 people in sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to electricity. Innovative technologies and new business models are making significant progress in energy access with on-grid and off-grid solutions in urban and rural areas.

Contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy, the AFD implemented the Digital Energy Facility, a programme co-financed by the European Union to support the digitization and modernization of the energy sector.


The 2021 Call for Projects targets projects based in sub-Saharan Africa and owned by:

  • Start-ups in the pre-seed phase or with early-stage activities. NGOs can apply under the Start-up category (see more details on the eligibility criteria for Start-ups).  
  • Public utilities (public electricity power utilities and public Independent System Operators, power pools, regional organisations, energy regulators, rural electrification authorities and public organisations in charge of biomass resource preservation) in partnership with technology/service providers (see more details on the eligibility criteria for Utilities).


Each year the Challenge will award 2-3 utility and technology/service provider partnership projects and 5-8 start-up projects. An annual budget from the European Union of €1.5M will enable grant-based funding, technical assistance and strategic guidance. Challenge winners can benefit from:      

  • A financial contribution 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 


  • Launch of the Call for Projects: 6th April 2021
  • General information webinar: 28th April 2021at 9:30am CET – Click here to register
  • Deadline for submission: 30th June 2021 23:59 CET
  • Announcement of results: September-October 2021