Catalyzing investment for internet connectivity and digital financial services in emerging markets.
Demand for internet connectivity and digital financial services is growing exponentially on a global scale. Developing markets continue to lack basic access to the internet and the poorest consumers are losing out on participating in the digital economy. The investment gap for internet connectivity alone is over $428 billion globally, and there is a need to ensure investments are directed toward building open, inclusive, and secure digital infrastructure and services. USAID’s Digital Invest program is designed to address this issue.
Digital Invest is a U.S. government-funded program overseen by a team of technical experts at USAID who provide highly customized support to the private sector. Its purpose is to select and support investment fund managers, wholesale internet infrastructure providers, and other private sector partners to accelerate new investments that benefit digital finance and internet service providers in emerging markets.
Digital Invest works with each partner to identify and provide targeted, risk-tolerant, catalytic capital to increase partners’ ability to secure private sector funding. Speedier than a development financial institution, with more flexibility than a traditional grant, Digital Invest provides an average of $500,000 per partner with the objective of unlocking greater investment towards resilient digital infrastructure, increased digital inclusion, and stronger economic development, particularly for the most vulnerable and socially excluded.
Since launching in 2022, Digital Invest has provided $8.45 million in U.S. government funding to partners who have, in turn, raised over $275 million in investment capital, with more than $475 million expected. In that period of time, Digital Invest partners have invested in over 60 technology companies across 38 countries, including the expansion of broadband connectivity infrastructure in Liberia, a digital payment platform in Uzbekistan, and a new fund supporting female investors and tech founders across South and Southeast Asia.
Digital Invest is led by USAID’s Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub as part of the U.S. government’s Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership (DCCP) with funding from the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, USAID’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Hub, USAID’s Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub, and USAID Liberia. Digital Invest was announced by President Biden in June 2022 as a flagship program under the G7-led Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.
Please refer to the Call for Concepts for details on new partnership opportunities. Final concept notes will be co-developed with the Digital Invest team before April 15, 2024.
Digital Invest works with and supports impact-focused partners such as:
- Accion Venture Lab, the investment arm of Accion International, provides early-stage capital and extensive support to innovative, scalable fintech startups that improve the reach, quality, and affordability of financial services for the underserved.
- Connectivity Capital is launching a sector-specific impact fund focused on expanding internet access in developing countries, supporting ISPs in building open and secure digital infrastructure to increase access to affordable broadband.
- Converged Technology Networks, an ISP based in Malawi, will be completing a new wireless backhaul link to deliver lower cost capacity to the capital of Lilongwe. This, combined with the launch of the first internet exchange point in Lilongwe, will allow ISPs in Malawi to access lower cost capacity and keep traffic local - enabling the expansion of digital connectivity and services in the country.
- CSquared, an Africa-based technology company focused on broadband enabling infrastructure, is establishing a 350-kilometer open-access fiber backbone network in Liberia to provide transformative network capacity to ISPs and mobile network operators. As a result, this will bring quality internet access to approximately one million people in Liberia.
- E3 Capital (formerly Energy Access Ventures) seeks to improve access to digitally-enabled services across sub-Saharan Africa, with a portion of their fund dedicated to expanding connectivity to drive internet access and use.
- Integra Partners seeks to empower tech entrepreneurs to drive access to affordable and responsible financial and digital health services across South and Southeast Asia, with the vision that every person and business in the region should be able to manage and improve their financial and physical health digitally and at a reasonable cost.
- Lendable offers debt financing for financial technology companies (fintechs) operating in emerging and frontier markets, with a focus on increasing access to credit for small-and-medium-sized enterprises and supporting the digital business ecosystem.
- Mercy Corps Ventures, the impact investing and innovative finance arm of the global development organization Mercy Corps, will increase its investment and support for high-growth technology startup companies building climate adaptation and financial resilience for underserved communities in emerging markets.
- Microsoft Airband is supporting the development and launch of a global incentive fund, managed by Resonance, for ISPs providing digital access to community institutions such as health clinics, schools, and local government facilities.
- Modus Capital is launching a venture-builder program for early-stage financial technology companies that improve financial well-being across underserved populations in Egypt, building off the infrastructure and best practices of Modus’ venture platform, comprising venture capital funds, venture builders, and a corporate innovation arm.
- Roke Telkom, a Ugandan-based ISP, will develop new fixed wireless infrastructure to expand affordable and inclusive broadband services in underserved areas of Northern, Eastern, and Western Uganda. This will support the ISP ecosystem in the country by offering wholesale services at competitive rates, allowing for more affordable last mile services to the end consumer.
- SIMA Funds, an impact investment firm, is launching a new crowdfunding platform, Sow Good Investments, that will catalyze U.S. retail investments into fintech-enabled microfinance institutions and pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) solar financing and distribution companies operating across sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
- Sturgeon Capital, an emerging markets-focused venture fund manager, invests in early-stage technology startups solving fundamental problems affecting the day to day lives of small businesses and consumers. Sturgeon is launching a new fund investing in early-stage technology startups across Central and South Asia, with a focus on digital inclusion, new job creation, and more equitable gender representation across the tech sector.