Request for Proposals - USADF Off-Grid Energy Challenge

Request for Proposals - USADF Off-Grid Energy Challenge

The United States African Development Foundation (USADF) is excited to request proposals for the USADF Off-Grid Energy Challenge.

To be considered for the Challenge, applicants must be African-owned and -managed private companies and organizations (including non-profit and not-for-profit) registered and operating in any of these USADF countries of operations in Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Project Categories

Agriculture – Energy Nexus:

Off-grid energy solutions for mechanization of Agriculture value chain processes such as grain milling, oil expelling, refrigeration, transport, etc. Solutions are to explain clearly how they will be commercially viable.

It is expected that the use of the power will address (a) business solution(s) that will generate ongoing revenue and profits to sustain the enterprise. This must be clearly explained in the proposal.

Healthcare – Energy Nexus:

  • Off-grid energy solutions focused on improvements of healthcare service and delivery like healthcare facilities electrification (HFE), vaccine storage and distribution, etc. Off-grid energy solutions for processes and activities related to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) will also be considered.


  • This category is open to women entrepreneurs and innovators with projects focused on increasing sustainable energy access – particularly off-grid solutions – extending the delivery of electrification to un-served and underserved communities in the target countries, with a particular focus on un-served and underserved women. In addition, women led, or managed companies focused on developing clean energy solutions, capacity building or skills education will also be considered. Entities in this category must have majority female ownership AND the top manager(s) must be female, and/or majority of the intended beneficiaries must be female.

    Other Energy Nexus:

  • Off-grid energy solutions for cross-sector areas like education, ICT, construction, manufacturing mining, etc, will also be considered

    Mini- and micro-grids:

  • Small-scale power generation systems for electrification that provide an alternative to, or an enhancement of, national/regional grid-connected electric transmission.

    Productive use:

  • Off-grid energy solutions for commercial and industrial activities and/or processes including the utilization of energy in machinery, factories, or in any activity that enhances productivity outcomes and increases income generation for the beneficiaries.

    Stand-alone and Home systems:

  • Off-grid energy systems installed directly in the homes and/or businesses of unserved or underserved consumers, which supply energy directly to communities currently (and in the foreseeable future) lacking access to energy.

  • Focus must be on distribution systems that are cost-effective, scalable, replicable, and affordable.


  • This category is open to the applicants to identify innovative technologies that will advance the increase in energy access. Proposals need not necessarily be for power generation only, they may also include the provision of innovative metering, payment systems, or other enabling technology. If it is an innovation, then a simple and clear explanation must be provided to convey why the innovation is important and what it will do for the sector or the population.


    Winning applicants will receive:

  • Grant capital up to US$250,000 from USADF

  • Access to intensive local technical assistance and governance support


    The Off-Grid Energy Challenge is an initiative of the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) designed to achieve the following results:

  • To increase electric power generation to unserved and underserved African communities through sustainable business model solutions
    To increase or/and expand energy access through off-grid solutions such as home systems and micro or mini-grids

  • To increase access to electricity for household and productive uses - while this may include power to meet household consumer needs, emphasis is given to the delivery of power to productive commercial and industrial activities including agricultural production and processing, commercial enterprises, industrial enterprises, healthcare facilities and others

  • To increase women participation in the energy sector by supporting women owned and managed energy enterprises

    Eligible Projects

  • Provide off-grid energy to rural or urban areas and populations currently lacking energy access. Distance of the site from the grid is to be stated in the application, including an explanation on why grid connection is not feasible is necessary, and an estimate of the cost to connect the site to
    the grid. The best estimate of how long it will take for the area to connect to the grid should be stated. If the proposal is for an urban area or area with grid connections, justification for selecting such site should be included

  • Focus on reaching unserved, underserved or marginalized populations

  • Clearly identify any female ownership/management

  • Explain all tangible improvements to the lives of women and girls, including whether and how the entity targets women for capacity building/employment

  • Clearly identify specific innovations of the technology or business model and the energy source, type of application, and usage.

  • Clearly state whether and how many new connections will be added. A “new connection” is defined as a new mini-grid connection or home system installed

  • Project includes power for economic (income generating) activities. For example, in small-scale value added agriculture processing, the actual or potential business impact of the project should be addressed in the proposal

  • Demonstrate the potential for financial sustainability and profitability. Attach a comprehensive five year financial model projecting expected financial return on investment and anticipated payback period in an Excel format. The application must demonstrate the potential to operate as a commercially viable business

  • Demand Driven; the proposal should address a clearly established and unmet demand

  • Preference is given to proposals that leverage finance from other sources in addition to Challenge funds

  • Entity is African owned and managed, registered, and operating within Africa

    Eligibility Criteria

  • USADF will consider proposals from African owned and managed companies or organizations (including nonprofit and not-for-profit). Passports or other government-issued IDs of all owners and senior managers must be submitted with the applications. If the applying entity is owned wholly or in part by another entity, passports or other government-issued IDs of its owners must also be provided. The applying entity must not be government owned, operated, or affiliated in any way.

  • Applicants may be developers of their own technology and/or may be acquiring and implementing technology developed elsewhere. Applicants need to be legally registered in Africa and demonstrate the capacity to track and manage the project resources and operate in good standing with the local governments in which they operate.

    Winning proposals must:

  • Further develop, scale up, or extend use of proven technologies for off–grid energy in Africa

  • Benefit marginalized, low-income rural, urban, or peri-urban populations currently underserved by utility companies, ideally with a focus on benefits to women and girls

  • Demonstrate financial sustainability or the potential for financial sustainability and independence over time and beyond its implementation lifetime. The proposed investment period must include at least three months of revenue from sales of energy/electricity generated

  • Demonstrate a proven track record of experience or have project sponsors or partners with a proven track record of related experience

  • Demonstrate clearly whether and how many new connections will be added, as well as the potential for future replication. A “new connection” is defined as a new mini-grid connection or home system installed

  • Proposals leveraging wind, hydro, biomass, and gas as the energy source are greatly encouraged

  • Productive use applications in the agriculture and agri-business, commercial, and industrial sectors are highly encouraged

  • Women owned or managed business are encouraged

  • Proposals from the following countries are highly encouraged and will be given priority consideration: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Zambia

    Applications will only be considered if they:

  • Are African owned and passports or other government-issued IDs showing citizenship are submitted

  • All shareholders, members of the board and senior management must be citizens of a subSaharan African country

  • Express clearly how they will benefit marginalized, grassroots people in Africa, including showing demonstrable positive impacts for female beneficiaries

  • Express clearly how they will achieve profitability and sustainable growth

  • Are fully and legally registered in Africa and the registration is submitted

  • Document adequate expertise in the field they are proposing or document how they will acquire the necessary expertise

  • Clearly document how they will use USADF grant capital to carry out their concept

    How to Apply

    For more information and job application details, see; Request for Proposals - USADF Off-Grid Energy Challenge

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