Africa and Asia are projected to account for 90 per cent of global urban growth from now until 2050. Unfortunately, urbanisation in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is not always accompanied by inclusive growth and structural transformation with informal settlements expanding at an unprecedented rate. Providing basic urban services to these areas poses unique challenges to municipalities and state-owned utilities. Climate change is intensifying these challenges and posing further risks and vulnerabilities to cities and urban utility service provision. For cities to become engines of productivity and social mobility, it is critical that low-income urban populations are not excluded from accessing essential urban utility services.
Meeting this challenge requires new and innovative business models and services. To that end, in May 2021 we launched the GSMA Innovation Fund for Digital Urban Services with support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The objective of the fund is to support organizations that provide essential urban services and leverage digital innovations and partnerships to make these services accessible, reliable, sustainable, and affordable. We will be supporting digital innovators who bring the ingenuity, technical expertise, and customer-centric focus to work alongside mobile operators, urban service providers, and municipalities.
We received 335 applications from 43 countries, and after a competitive selection process, we are pleased to announce the new cohort of 10 start-ups:
ATEC | Bangladesh | Pay-as-you-go eCooking for BoP customers, with GSM tracking of climate impacts
Bhumijo | Bangladesh | Provision of affordable sanitation through public toilets in Dhaka
Diyalo | Nepal | Developing IoT-based digital solutions for water utilities
Freetown Waste Transformers | Sierra Leone | Organic waste collection and processing, producing energy (biogas) and fertiliser
Koolboks | Nigeria | PAYG solar-powered refrigerator for commercial use by MSME traders
Powerstove | Nigeria | Smokeless biomass cookstoves with IoT functionality
Regenize | South Africa | Household waste collection and recycling, organised and tracked through mobile
SOSO Care | Nigeria | Micro-mobile health insurance from household waste collection
JanaJal | India | Door-step delivery of clean, affordable drinking water using digital tools
ReCircle | India | Aggregating and digitising the dry waste supply chains to track safe disposal or recycling
During the coming months, we will support these start-ups to build urban resilience by helping them scale and realise their full potential through:
- Facilitating partnerships with mobile operators and public sector organisations;
- Providing technical assistance on how to reach and better serve urban customers through digital innovations;
- Providing tools, templates and specialist advisory support on how to evidence socio-economic impact and promote product improvement;
- Supporting with scalability and sustainability planning; and
- Offering opportunities to increase their visibility to potential investors and partners through profiling their innovative work in GSMA events and publications.
Through these activities, the GSMA hopes to help this cohort of innovators to realise their full potential. In catalysing these digital solutions, we also hope to learn and build evidence, and will share insights and learnings across the industry to support the wider growth of the ecosystem.
The GSMA is looking forward to working with these innovative organisations and being part of their journey of creating impact for low-income urban populations in LMICs.
To learn more about the start-ups, take a look at The GSMA Innovation Fund portfolio.