ECOWAS to fast-track regional ID card project to boost financial inclusion, integration
The World Bank-supported West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) programme is set to enjoy new impetus after members of the steering committee met in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos last week to okay the overall program development objectives.
Already, the first phase of the $395 million project, which is meant to provide unique proof of identity for easy access to public services, has been piloted by Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea and is in the process of being implemented by Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo, according to the ECOWAS Commission, which is spearheading the project.
The project, which is in two phases, will be expanded by all the other member states of ECOWAS as a way of providing legal and acceptable identity for all citizens of the regional economic and political bloc, writes Premium Times. About 196 million people within ECOWAS are said not to have any form of legal identity, despite the high level of regional mobility within the bloc.
During the Lagos meeting at which the Programme Development Objective (PrDO) was signed, the ECOWAS Commission and its partners reiterated that the WURI program is designed to provide legal and digital identity for ECOWAS citizens with the goal of enhancing financial inclusion, easy access to services, and advance regional integration efforts of member countries.
This is line with the bloc’s Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment which has been in force since 1980, as well as its 2022-2026 strategic objectives.
Massandjé Toure-Litse, ECOWAS commissioner for economic affairs and agriculture, speaking during the recent meeting, said the project, among other things, seeks to close the ID gap existing in the region and to put in place a unique ID platform that will streamline access to services both in the home countries of users or in any country within ECOWAS area.
A World Bank official quoted by Premium Times, Christian Bodewig, also underlined the importance of the ID project in facilitating the movement of persons and service delivery, adding that it is structured to be implemented by the various national governments of participating countries.