The West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) project commenced project implementation in 2022.
The project is a World Bank-ECOWAS Commission partnership aiming to implement a multiphase programme with an overall Programme Development Objective (PrDO) of increasing the number of persons in participating Member States who have government-recognised proof of unique identity that facilitates their access to services.
The programme is built around the ECOWAS Protocol of Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment and is designed in two phases with a combined financing envelope of USD395.1 million. Phase 1 which covers Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea was approved by the International Development Association (IDA) on 31st May 2018 and is expected to close on 3rd July 2024. Phase 2 which covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo was approved on 28th April 2020, and has an expected closing date of 30th July 2026. The whole programme is expected to close on 3rd July 2028.
The IDA, through the World Bank provided a US$ 5 million grant to the ECOWAS Commission within phase 1 to enhance and foster inter-agency collaboration and strengthen engagement across the ECOWAS Member States through the facilitation of regional dialogue for mutual recognition of foundational identity (fID) systems that enables access to services. The overall project coordination is ensured by the Director of Free Movement and Migration, equally the designated Project Coordinator. The project engaged the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) comprising of a Project Manager, a Financial Management Specialist, a Procurement Specialist, a Communication Assistant, and a Programme Assistant to enhance the capacity of the Directorate to implement the project. The PIU assumed duty in varying dates in the months of December 2021 and January 2022.
Overall, the programme targets to provide a Unique Identification (UID) to about 100 million people by 2028 – that is about 27 percent of the population in the ECOWAS region. The rationale behind this project is that (1) about 53 percent of the ECOWAS region’s population are unregistered and do not have proof of identification despite the high level of intra-regional mobility estimated at 70 percent of the population; and (2) the lack of identification limits people’s access to critical services and hinders them becoming full members of the society. Identification is an important tool and is a key enabler for eradicating poverty and for achieving a broad range of development outcomes.
The project aligns with ECOWAS Vision 2050, particularly goals relative to (1) Economic Integration and Interconnectivity, (2) Transformation and Inclusive and Sustainable Development and (3) Social Inclusion as well as Target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which recognised the centrality of proof of identification in assuring an inclusive world: to “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration” by 2030.