USADF/Power Africa seeking Proposals for Sahel-Horn Off-Grid Energy Challenge

Deadline: 15 November 2019

The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) and Power Africa are seeking proposals for the Sahel/Horn Off-Grid Energy Challenge.

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Projects are to be focused on increasing sustainable energy access – specifically off-grid solutions – extending the delivery of electrification to un-served and underserved communities in the seven countries listed below. The type of clean energy technologies to be proposed may include, but are not limited to, solar, hydro, wind, biomass, biogas, gas, and hybrid systems.

Proposals may incorporate a range of access technology types and business models, including, but not limited to:

  • Electricity generation technologies: solar, hydro, wind, biomass, biogas, gas, diesel, and hybrid systems. Note these technologies can be coupled with clean cooking solutions but electricity generation is required.
  • Electrification approaches: solar home systems (SHS), micro-grids, stand-alone power systems, hybridization or expansion of existing power systems. Note: solar lanterns are not eligible. Note that SHS products must be Lighting Global certified.
  • Business models: pay-as-you go, consumer financing, Power Purchase Agreement off-take, SHS/appliance distribution.
  • Promotion of productive use of energy (PUE) and attendant equipment, including the trial and rollout of new PUE equipment.

Funding Information

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  • Proposals up to US$100,000 per award will be considered, and up to twenty awards are anticipated in seven countries.
  • Winning applicants will receive:
    • Capital in the form of grant funds
    • Access to local technical assistance and governance support from Power Africa and USADF

Eligibility Criteria

USADF will consider proposals from 100% African-owned companies, which have majority owners and managers from ONE of the seven countries (Burkina FasoMaliMauritaniaNigerSenegal, Somalia, and South Sudan). Passports or other government-issued IDs of owners and senior managers must be submitted with the applications. The companies applying must be for-profit enterprises and must not be government-owned or operated 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 ONE of the seven countries listed above 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:

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  • Further develop, scale up or extend use of proven technologies for off–grid energy in ONE of the seven countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, and South Sudan).
  • Benefit marginalized, or low income rural or urban populations currently underserved by utility companies, ideally with a strong focus on benefits to women and girls.
  • Demonstrate financial sustainability or the potential for financial sustainability. The proposed investment period must include approximately three months of generation of electricity (or generation of energy) and revenue/cash flow from sales.
  • Demonstrate a proven track record of experience or have project sponsors or partners with a proven track record of related experience.
  • Propose a budget of no more than US$100,000. Proposals with budgets greater than US$100,000 must bring leveraged resources from one or more sources that meet the total financing requirements. Leveraged funds from other private sector and donor sources are encouraged.
  • Demonstrate clearly whether and how many new connections will be added, as well as potential for future replication.

Applications will only be considered if:

  • They are 100% African-owned and passports or other form of ID showing citizenship are submitted;
    • All shareholders, members of the board and senior management must be citizens of a sub-Saharan African country and must reside in ONE of the seven countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, and South Sudan);
  • They are majority locally-owned and -managed (senior managers);
  • They express clearly how they will benefit marginalized, grassroots people in their country, including also ideally showing demonstrable positive impacts for female beneficiaries;
  • They express clearly how they will achieve profitability;
  • They are fully and legally registered in their country of operation and the registration is submitted;
  • They document adequate expertise in the field they are proposing or document how they will acquire the necessary expertise;
  • They plainly document how they will use the USADF grant funds to carry out their concept;
  • They make clear any female ownership/management (note: significant female ownership and management is desirable although not a requirement).


Winning proposals will do the following:

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  • 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 included. An explanation on why grid connection is not feasible is necessary, including an estimate of the cost to connect to the grid. Applicants should state their best understanding of how long it will take for the area to connect to the national grid. If the proposal is for an urban area or an area with grid connections, a justification is to be included.
  • Focus on reaching un-served, underserved or marginalized populations.
  • Make clear any female ownership/management.
  • Explain all tangible improvements to lives of women and girls, including whether and how company targets women for capacity building/employment.
  • Make clear any specific innovations of the technology or business model, and what the energy source.
  • Clearly state whether and how many new connections will be added.
  • Include power for economic activities, for example small-scale value-added agriculture processing. The actual or potential business impact is to be addressed in the proposal.
  • Demonstrate the potential for financial sustainability. Some measure of projected financial return on investment and payback period is to be included. The application must demonstrate the potential to operate as a commercially viable business.
  • Be driven by demand: is the proposal meeting a clearly known and unmet demand?
  • (Preferred) Leverage financing from sources in addition to Challenge funds.

The following electrification models will be considered, among others:

  • Solar home systems (SHS)
    • “Plug and play” kits serving a single customer’s household or small business needs. No design expertise is required to choose system sizes/components; no electrician’s training is needed to safely and successfully install and operate the system; all electrical connections can be made without the use of tools.
  • Mini/micro-grids
    • Small-scale power generation and distribution systems which provide an alternative to, or an enhancement of, national/regional grid-connected electric transmission and which can potentially reduce existing levels of energy poverty (for business outlets) in the settlements.
  • Stand-alone power systems
    • An off-grid power system serving a single customer and a single facility, or complex of adjacent facilities. Note that solar lanterns as a standalone product are not eligible.
  • Hybridization or expansion of existing power systems
    • Addition of new power generation capacity for an existing power system; either to reduce operating costs or meet unmet demand. Hybrid systems incorporate more than one form of generation technology, such as a solar-diesel system.

The following business models will be considered, among others:

  • Pay-as-you-go
    • Customers make ongoing payments for their system rather than paying the full system cost upfront. Payments may be made through sales agents, mobile phones, or through a mobile feature integrated into the device itself. Most applicable to SHS.
  • Consumer financing
    • When systems are sold on a pay-as-you-go basis, a line of credit is extended to the customer for the period over which the system is being paid. This credit may be provided by the SHS distributor or another institution specializing in consumer finance.
  • SHS/appliance distribution
    • Businesses participating in the SHS and appliance/equipment supply chain, including direct retail outlets, and agent-based sales networks.

How to Apply

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Interested applicants must download the application template available on the given website.

For more information, please visit

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