French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-up

The 2024 Digital Energy Challenge by the French Agency for Development (AFD) is now open for African start-ups, aiming to drive innovation and progress in the continent’s energy sector. With a substantial prize of 70,000€, this initiative seeks to promote sustainable energy solutions and empower entrepreneurs to make a positive impact.

French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-up
French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-up

The challenge is available to start-ups that are registered and operational in African countries. Eligible countries for African startups include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, 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, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Type of Award: Startups

The main Focus of the French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups

They are as follows:

  • Promoting the integration and adoption of renewable energy.
  • Enhancing energy security across industrial, commercial, and residential sectors.
  • Improving energy access for developing communities, especially in off-grid and rural areas.
  • Encouraging innovative business models that support sustainable energy production.
  • Supporting gender equality and encouraging women’s participation in the energy sector.

What Activities are Covered?

Projects should primarily involve digital technology (telecom, computer, or cloud-based). They should demonstrate innovation, either inherently or concerning the local market or country. Additionally, projects must have a local presence with project management activities conducted in the country where the project is situated.

For both Start-ups and Utilities, the project focus should align with one of three themes:

  • Digital Technology Integration
  • Innovative Solutions for Energy Challenges
  • Local Impact and Project Management

Deadline of French Agency for Development (AFD)

The deadline for the AFD 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups is May 15, 2024. Interested start-ups should submit their proposals before this date to be eligible for the competition.

Benefits for Challenge Winners of French Agency for Development (AFD) for African Start-up

Each year, the Challenge will select 2 to 3 utility and technology/service provider partnership projects and 5 to 8 start-up projects. With an annual budget of €1.8 million, winners can access grant-based funding, technical assistance, and strategic guidance.

Winners of the Challenge can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Financial support in the form of a grant for purchasing equipment and software, covering training expenses, recruitment costs for start-ups, and purchasing products/services from technology/service providers for utilities.
  • Technical assistance tailored to the needs of all utilities and certain start-ups on a case-by-case basis. This assistance includes project management support, strategic and technical expertise, and help with accounting and reporting.
  • Participation in a bootcamp led by experts from various sectors to aid in project implementation, promote collaboration among winners, and exchange best practices.
  • Enhanced visibility for the project through extensive social media campaigns managed by AFD during the selection phase, award ceremony, bootcamp, and post-event period.

Eligibility Criteria of French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-up

To be eligible for the AFD 2024 Digital Energy Challenge, start-ups need to meet these criteria:

  • African Start-up: The start-up must be registered and operating in an African country.
  • Focus on Digital Energy Solutions: Projects should concentrate on digital solutions for renewable energy, such as energy efficiency, access, and renewable energy itself.
  • Innovation and Impact: Applicants must show a clear and well-informed approach to tackling energy challenges in Africa, with the potential for significant impact.
  • Scalability: Start-ups should have a Strong business model capable of expanding their impact within the region or continent.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

The 2024 Call for Projects is for initiatives located in Africa and owned by:

  • Start-ups in the pre-seed phase or with early-stage operations. NGOs can apply under the Start-up category (check the eligibility criteria for Start-ups for more details).
  • Public utilities (such as public power utilities and public Independent System Operators), private companies operating under a public service concession, power pools, regional organizations, energy regulators, and rural electrification authorities collaborating with technology/service providers (refer to the eligibility criteria for Utilities for more details).

How to Apply for the French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups

To apply for the 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups by AFD, follow these steps:

  • Visit the AFD’s official website at
  • Navigate to the section for the Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups.
  • Review the application guidelines, and eligibility criteria, and access the application form.
  • Ensure that your startup meets all specified requirements.
  • Fill out the application form accurately with detailed information about your startup and its digital energy solution.
  • Submit the completed application form along with the necessary documents before the deadline.

Requirements of French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups

Start-ups are required to  meet these requirements as part of their application:

  • Founded within the last 10 years
  • In the pre-seed/early-stage financing phase with less than €1M funding raised
  • Annual turnover below €1M
  • Employ between 1 and 99 full-time employees.

NGOs can also apply as Start-ups if their project meets one of these additional requirements:

  • The project is established as a company branch of the NGO
  • The project has a dedicated team and business plan focused on business sustainability/profitability (e.g., plans for independence as a separate entity).

Additionally, Start-up projects must align with one of the three themes mentioned above. NGOs can apply under the Start-up category if their project also meets these criteria:

  • Digital: Based on telecom, computer, or cloud-based technology
  • Innovative: Either inherently or compared to the local market
  • Local: Headquartered or with project management activities in the project country.

Tips for Successful Application French Agency for Development (AFD) 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups

To increase the likelihood of success in the AFD 2024 Digital Energy Challenge, start-ups should consider the following tips:

  • Clearly define the problem statement and how the proposed solution addresses it.
  • Showcase the solution and consistency of the project.
  • Provide evidence of market demand and customer validation.
  • Highlight the qualifications and track record of the project team in the energy sector.
  • Be concise yet clear in presenting the project proposal.


The AFD 2024 Digital Energy Challenge offers African start-ups an opportunity to showcase innovative solutions for Africa’s sustainable energy transition. This competition emphasizes digital technology and sustainability to drive positive change and empower entrepreneurs in shaping Africa’s energy landscape. African start-ups are encouraged to submit their proposals and join this impactful initiative.

Frequently Asked Questions about AFD’s 2024 Digital Energy Challenge for African Start-ups

Can non-African nationals apply for the AFD 2024 Digital Energy Challenge?

No, only start-ups registered and operating in African countries are eligible to apply.

Is there a team member limit for each start-up?

There isn’t a specific limit, but applicants should ensure their team has the necessary skills for project execution.

What if my start-up received previous AFD funding?

Start-ups that already received AFD funding for the same project cannot participate in the challenge.



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