Driving innovation to counter global challenges

Under the patronage of the BMZ, together with “Team Europe” partners from the European Commission, other European Union (EU) Member States, the #SmartDevelopmentFund (#SDF) is a pioneering initiative that aims to refine digital solutions to address the most pressing global challenges of our time. After the successful completion of its first project phase, the #SDF’s new focus on “Digital & Green Innovation” (DGI) will leverage regional ecosystems to address climate change and foster resilient local economies.

The #SDF provides support to tech start-ups, NGOs, and social businesses, empowering them to pioneer, scale, and accelerate their innovative solutions successfully. By leveraging digital technologies, the fund strives to tackle the social, economic, and developmental repercussions of global crises.

The #SDF was founded in response to global crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbate existing global inequalities and present long-term obstacles to social and economic development. To unlock a new generation of initiatives that could address the unprecedented upheaval in low- and middle-income countries, the innovation competition #SmartDevelopmentHack was launched in Spring 2020, which resulted in nine successful initiatives. Consequently, the #SmartDevelopmentFund was established to support these transformative solutions. In its next phase, the #SDF focuses on digital transformation and green transition. Aligned with the EU’s priorities, the fund will promote a fair, inclusive, green, and human-centric digital transition. It will emphasize digital entrepreneurship for prosperity and recognizes the role of technology in reducing poverty.

The #SmartDevelopmentFund has already made a substantial impact in the following ways:



winning projects have already been supported by the #SDF, each selected for their potential to address critical global issues. These projects span over various sectors, including agriculture, health, employment, and skills development.


countries worldwide are implementing the projects supported by the #SDF. This extensive reach and engagement ensures that their impact extends to a diverse range of communities, both rural and urban.


million people, collectively, have actively engaged with the #SDF’s projects and thus directly benefited from better digital services or information offers. This active engagement demonstrates the #SDF’s effectiveness in addressing global challenges.

Our approach

  • The #SmartDevelopmentFund fosters an enabling environment within the global digital sector, encouraging the emergence of innovative solutions from low- and middle-income countries. By nurturing creativity and novel ideas, we aim to unlock transformative approaches to combating pressing global issues, such as climate change, inequality, and public health crisis and their repercussions.


An open-source audio learning platform that provides marginalized populations, particularly women and girls, with life-saving knowledge and expanded opportunities. In this project, over 99.000 people actively took part in training or information sessions across Nigeria, Uganda, Brazil, India and Pakistan. The participants belong to various groups such as school students, community members, self-help group members, social media group members, and other social communities. The project is being implemented in cooperation with the Audiopedia Foundation and DAHW.

Project site

Photo Credit: URIDU (Marcel Heyne) First pilot project in Coastal region, Tanzania with support of Ministry of Health.

Digital Agriculture Africa

This project fosters the resilience of small farmers in Africa while closing the digital gender divide in agriculture. By providing a digital learning “Farm-to-Fork Solution,” this initiative empowers farmers in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia. To date, it has engaged a total of 891.000 people who actively utilize the content and information. The project is being implemented in cooperation with Mercy Corps Agrifin, FSPN Africa and CoAmana.

PROJEct Site

Drone + Data Aid

By supporting technological capacity development, this initiative strengthens existing systems with innovative solutions to solve real-life challenges. The project is being implemented in Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda where 879 drone pilots have successfully graduated from the African Drone and Data Academy. The implementation is done in cooperation with the African Drone & Data Academy Malawi, Wingcopter and Unicef.

Project site

Rural Women Entrepreneurs

Utilizing digital technologies, this project mobilizes women’s business centres to respond to challenges such as climate change, pandemics, and food insecurity. By building capacity and offering support, this initiative has already engaged nearly 30.000 people in Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria. This number reflects the people that have directly participated in digital health, nutrition or veterinary consultation or service. The project is being implemented in cooperation with United Purpose and mPower.

Project Site


This digital marketplace offers online- and offline opportunities for skills development, community engagement and employment for youth. The project is being implemented in South Africa and Nigeria while scaling first activities to Kenya, Burundi, Benin, Trinidad and Tobago, Ivory Coast and the Philippines. In close collaboration with its partners UNICEF, Generation Unlimited, RLabs, Goodwall, Botnar Foundation and the African Coding Network, the project has engaged over 500.000 people, referring to the youth reached by Yoma-related offerings.

Project Site

Our goal

From April 2020 to December 2023 the #SmartDevelopmentFund will have completed a successful first phase working in close cooperation with a strong partner network on digital solutions which globally helped counter COVID-19 challenges. Implementing globally yet again, the new phase, focused on DGI complements regional initiatives and inclusive green innovation for women, youth, and vulnerable groups, benefiting diverse communities. The fund plans an innovation challenge in the fall of 2023 to kickstart this phase.

The #SmartDevelopmentFund remains committed to driving positive change, fostering innovation, and addressing global challenges like digital transformation, and green transition. Its goal for the new phase is to make a lasting impact on millions of lives.