Coronavirus – Africa: Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger Join West Africa Regional Identification Program to Help Millions of People Access Services

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On Wednesday, The World Bank approved $273 million in International Development Association (IDA) financing for Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger to facilitate access to services for millions of people, especially women and the poorest segments of society.

The West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) Program will help build the foundational identification systems that are inclusive of all persons in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) territory, irrespective of nationality, citizenship or legal status. The Program will help improve access to services, including safety nets, social registries, health and pension programs, financial and digital inclusion, women and girls’ empowerment, and labor mobility.

“The WURI Program will help countries to reap substantial benefits at both regional and national levels. Foundational digital identification systems can play an important role in delivering and managing social protection, health and financial inclusion services and are more important than ever in times such as we are experiencing with COVID 19,”says Deborah Wetzel, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Africa. “WURI will support service delivery in the ECOWAS community by opening-up access to unique identification for all persons in the territory and promoting cross-border responses by linking national systems”, she added.

This financing is the second phase of the WURI Program bringing in Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger, and covers approximately 65 million people. Each country will implement foundational identification systems independently and according to their needs, using a minimal set of attributes to uniquely describe an individual. WURI will strengthen legal and institutional frameworks and establish robust foundational identification systems. Relying upon the Principles on Identification for Sustainable Development (“ID4D Principles”), WURI will work to build inclusive, trusted systems that assure data privacy, and that follow human-centred design approaches.

“In the wake of the COVID 19 crisis, identifying and providing social protection to those employed in the informal sector, who are not covered by any program but are vulnerable and may slip into poverty, has become more critical than ever. The WURI program can support social insurance systems for the informal sector, that are interoperable with social registries and build regionally on foundational identification platforms”, says Dena Ringold, World Bank, Africa Regional Director for Human Development.

The $395.1 million WURI Program, which started in 2018 with Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, is important to help achieve human development goals in participating countries. The Program furthers the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, and directly supports the ECOWAS regional strategy 2019-2023, which aims to raise the living standards of the populations in its member countries.

The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.6 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $21 billion over the last three years, with about 61 percent going to Africa.

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