Africa and Asia



GSMA - GSMA Innovation Fund For Digital Urban Services Movemeback African initiative cover image


The GSMA is looking for start-ups, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises in Africa, South or South East Asia. These organisations should be leveraging digital technology to deliver urban services with socio-economic, commercial and environmental impact in the following sectors:

  • Plastic and Waste Management
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Sanitation

Two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, with most urban growth concentrated in Africa and Asia. This poses challenges to basic service provision as city authorities and urban service providers struggle to meet the demands of rapidly growing populations.

To build on the success of the previous rounds of the GSMA Innovation Fund, a new round will open for applications in May 2021 to scale digital solutions that provide essential urban services to underserved populations from low- and middle-income countries in Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia. Grants and additional support are provided to start-ups, small to medium enterprises, or social enterprises that leverage digital technology, especially mobile, to deliver urban services with socio-economic, commercial, and environmental/climate impact.


The objective of the Fund is to extract insights from business models to inform the improvement of essential urban services delivery across energy, water, sanitation, plastics and waste management. Grants will be utilised to test digital innovations, enable scale, and provide essential services to underserved populations across all four sectors.

The grant projects must seek to demonstrate:

  • How innovative digital technology, including mobile, can support delivery of urban services to underserved populations
  • What business models and partnerships are required for innovative digital solutions to be adopted at scale
  • What are the social, commercial and environmental/climate impacts delivering urban services to underserved populations
  • What role mobile operators and other technology companies  can play in these business models, and how they can make their role commercially sustainable


Successful projects for The GSMA Innovation Fund for Digital Urban Services will receive an equity-free grant of between £100,000 and £250,000 to scale their innovation over a 15- to 18-month period

The support package includes:

  • Grant funding 
  • Bootcamp (a programme of expert-led sessions and targeted networking) and regular online clinics including sessions on product or service improvement, for example, supporting human-centred design or usability testing
  • Knowledge, expertise or best practices on the application of digital tools for improving lives of low-income households in urban settings
  • Learning exchange opportunities with other grantees and networking opportunities with the GSMA Digital Utilities and ClimateTech programmes’ networks
  • Monitoring and evaluation technical assistance to evidence socio-economic impact
  • Facilitation of relationships with mobile operators and public sector organisations, where relevant
  • Opportunity to increase grantee visibility and profile to potential investors and partners through profiling in GSMA publications, social media, and participation in industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as the Mobile 360 Series of regional conferences
  • The funding will be in the form of a grant which should be used for the proposed grant project. The Fund will closely oversee the monetary usage of the grant and only disburse funding based on milestones achievement. Milestone-based payments will be dependent on the grantee delivering proof that mutually-agreed milestones/targets have been completed/achieved

About GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as MWC Barcelona, MWC Shanghai, MWC Los Angeles and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences.