African mobile startups can apply for UK development funding

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Startups have been invited to apply for the M4D Utilities Innovation Fund, supported by the UK Government and the Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge for Development, which will award grants to test and scale the use of mobile to improve or increase access to energy, water, and sanitation services.

The M4D Utilities Innovation Fund was  launched in June 2013, and in two phases of funding has so far awarded grants amounting to a total of GBP6 million (US$7.7 million) to 34 organisations across four continents.

To date, M4D Utilities estimates the trials have impacted over 2.5 million direct beneficiaries in underserved populations around the world, with the grants awarded since 2013 leading to an additional US$174 million raised by grantees from the private sector.

The fund is open to companies and organisations from and operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia, though companies from Algeria, Botswana, Gabon, Libya, Namibia, South Africa and Tunisia are ineligible.

The Innovation Fund is open to everyone from startups to mobile operators to NGOs, with a strong preference to be given to applicants that are not implementing pay-as-you-go (PAYG) energy services in East Africa.

There are two types of grant available. The Seed Grant of up to GBP150,000 (US$192,000) in funding) will support the trial of products and  services that use mobile to enable sustainable access to energy, water or sanitation.

Meanwhile, the Market Validation Grant of up to GBP300,000 (US$384,000) is to support partnerships with mobile network operators or utility service providers to support scaling or replication of an existing service that increases or improves access to sustainable energy, water and sanitation services to underserved customers.

Applications close on September 3.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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