DigiFI Request for Proposals

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Photo: Intersect

DigiFI is currently accepting proposals. Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis. 

Overview of RFP process

Submission deadline

DigiFI is accepting proposals. Applications are open on a rolling basis and will be reviewed every few weeks. If a quicker response is required, please write to us and we get back to you as soon as possible.

This call is open to J-PAL affiliates and Invited Researchers, as well as to African scholars. The research topics should fall within the scope of DigiFI as laid out in the DigiFI framing paper, be in partnership with a government, private sector and/or an NGO, and have a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. 

Please direct any questions to [email protected].

Research funding opportunities

For this round of grants, DigiFI Africa is accepting the following categories of proposals: 

  • Policy Outreach grants (up to $10,000), 
  • Proposal Development grants (up to $15,000), 
  • Pilot studies (up to $75,000), and 
  • Full-Scale RCTs (up to $400,000).

Research agenda

DigiFI aims to fill this evidence gap by funding cutting-edge research projects focused on the study of innovative government, private sector, and NGO payment systems and ID reforms. The landscape of these themes is outlined in the DigiFI Africa framing paper.


J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL postdocs, and J-PAL invited researchers are eligible to apply for any type of DigiFI Africa funding. 

Resident African Scholars, who are based at an academic institution based in sub-Saharan Africa and who have completed their PhD, are eligible to initially apply for proposal development grants and pilot grants. Non-resident African Scholars are also eligible to apply for the same categories of funding. Non-resident African scholars include individuals who have completed high school in Africa, have completed their PhD, and are based in an academic institution outside of Africa. Targeted mentorship will be provided to African Scholars who receive funds from the Initiative. Full RCT funding eligibility is extended to resident and non-resident African Scholars who have successfully completed a pilot funded with J-PAL. 

PhD students with a J-PAL affiliate or J-PAL Africa invited researcher on their thesis committee are eligible to apply for proposal development grants or up to $75,000 in pilot or full-scale RCT funding.

Geographic focus

The DigiFI Africa initiative spans Africa, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. DigiFI Africa network researchers are encouraged to submit proposals for research conducted in the focus region, in partnership with governments and/or local implementing organizations.

Application instructions

Several J-PAL initiatives, including DigiFI Africa, use an online portal (FoundationConnect) for all application submissions, proposal reviews, invoice submissions, and grantee reporting. All proposal applications to DigiFI Africa are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Please note the following before beginning your application:

  • Our portal works best in the latest version of Google Chrome. 
  • If you already have an account but do not remember the password, please contact [email protected] for help retrieving or resetting your password. 
  • If you do not have a J-PAL portal account and need one created, please complete this form and specify that you want an applicant account. Account creation normally takes no more than two business days; you will be asked to verify your email address and set a password. For further information and troubleshooting, please get in touch with [email protected].  Your J-PAL portal account credentials will allow you to apply to or review applications for any J-PAL initiative. Please verify your eligibility by thoroughly reading the RFP overview. Ineligible applicants will be notified during LOI reviews and will not be invited to submit proposals.
  • As this portal is new, you might experience some glitches. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please reach out to [email protected] and [email protected] if you face any issues. 

To apply to DigiFI Africa’s rolling RFP, you will first need to log in via our online portal. Please navigate to the portal and follow the instructions to complete your login. Once you are logged into the portal, please click here to access DigiFI's letter of interest (LOI) form.

The DigiFI Africa team will notify you via the portal once we have reviewed your LOI and you are clear to begin your proposal. In the interim, to facilitate your proposal development, please refer to the proposal templates below that outline all the information you will be asked to provide when submitting a full proposal. You are welcome to begin drafting your proposal materials using these templates. However, please do not complete or submit this to DigiFI Africa for consideration until your LOI has been accepted. All submissions will be made through the online platform. 

Please see the following documents for more information on our funding process:

  • DigiFI Africa Frequently Asked Questions includes information on the scope of DigiFI Africa, support that the DigiFI Africa team can provide, eligibility, and DigiFI Africa proposal requirements. 

  • African Scholars Frequently Asked Questions covers topics specifically related to African Scholars including eligibility requirements, what funding can be used for, how the proposal process works, what to consider when budgeting for your project, and more.

Frequently asked questions

I think I have a great idea, but I’m not sure if it fits or how interesting it would be to DigiFI. Could I have a call with someone from the DigiFI team?

YES! We encourage you to get in touch ([email protected]). We are always happy to talk more about your ideas and to think through the process with you.

What is a pilot?

Pilot proposals generally have a very clear research question and lay the groundwork for a full randomized evaluation. A pilot requires a partnership with an implementing partner but in contrast to full proposals—which require a fully developed method of randomization, clear outcome measures, power calculations, and a scale-up plan—a pilot proposal should be at earlier stages of project development. Pilots generally are used to test the logistical viability of the program and/or the take up of the program in order to assess the impacts in a larger study in the future. It does not have  to employ a randomization strategy and can be based on administrative or survey data.

Pilot proposals must clearly articulate the conceptual and methodological distinction between the pilot study and any future follow-on studies, and what exactly the pilot will enable researchers to learn. It is expected that pilot studies will function to assess the feasibility of a full study by establishing research protocols, informing sample size and detectable effects, and assessing implementation processes. Pilots grants are appropriate for projects requesting funds to conduct pre-randomization activities.

Pilot studies can:

  • Acquire data that is qualitative and quantitative in nature;
  • Test the efficacy of an intervention or an evaluation design; and/or
  • Develop a high frequency process monitoring system (i.e. help select African governments track progress and challenges among a representative sample of targeted beneficiaries). Monitoring systems allow organizations to track the progress of programs by relying on rapidly collected data and easily interpretable data visualization/analytics. Although these systems may vary in form, a well-functioning system usually includes basic analysis on data set(s) and simple dynamic reporting. The goals of the high frequency monitoring systems would include assessing efficacy of the status quo and/or changes implemented and systematically collecting ongoing dynamic client feedback. Data from these monitoring systems can then inform the design of the RCTs, while also building credibility and trust with the partner government.

What do you mean by “high frequency process monitoring”?

Government officials facing short-term political cycles may be reluctant to agree to full-fledged experiments or other large-scale studies that may not yield definitive results for one to three years. In these cases, we encourage research teams to work with the partner government to develop high-frequency monitoring systems or initial pilot studies to help select African governments track progress and challenges among a representative sample of targeted beneficiaries. The goals of the high frequency monitoring systems would include assessing efficacy of the status quo and/or changes implemented and systematically collecting ongoing  feedback and data to evaluate particular features of these systems. This may involve outbound call systems to assess whether beneficiaries receive benefits, how much time this took, whether beneficiaries faced any technical challenges, whether anyone requested a bribe, and so on. This could be complemented by analysis of the administration data of the scheme. Such process information can then be aggregated into dashboards for public sector administrators to use in monitoring progress on the ground. Data from these monitoring systems can then inform the design of the RCTs, while also building credibility and trust with the partner government.

What can DigiFI do in terms of staff support for our research in the initial stages of project development?

DigiFI staff can assist with the following:

  1. Connections to policymakers in priority countries as well as provide information on the RFP and framing paper priorities. 
  2. Upon request, support on policy outreach including: Initial meetings with policymakers, coordination with other projects, and at a later stage, sharing of results with memos, events and conference presentations. 
  3. Clarification on the Initiative’s research priorities and on eligibility for potential projects.

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