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1 step forward, 3 steps back for West Africa’s regional digital ID projects

1 step forward, 3 steps back for West Africa’s regional digital ID projects

It may become more difficult for people living in several Western African countries to cross international borders, with their exit from regional blocs that provide biometric travel documents and digital IDs.

The Economic Community of West African State​s (ECOWAS) placed Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger under sanctions following military coups in each country.

The three nations are now leaving ECOWAS, meaning that their citizens will no longer be able to use the ECOWAS Passport or biometric ID card, and they will not be part of the WURI digital ID program.

ECOWAS is lifting the sanctions against them, meanwhile, in an attempt to salvage some degree of regional integration, Pulse reports.

The West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) program is a World Bank-backed scheme to support the issuance of foundational IDs in ECOWAS countries. Those countries were Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.

ECOWAS Commission President Dr. Omar Touray noted that all three countries leaving the bloc have benefitted from the WURI program, as quoted by Pulse.

Lifting the sanctions will allow some ECOWAS projects involving the three countries to continue, Touray said.

WURI advances in Togo

A Togolese government agency says WURI test registration in underway after sites and supervisors were selected, Togo First reports.

Test registrations of the biometric digital ID are planned from March 5 to 15.

The Ministry of Planning, Development, and Cooperation (INSEED) and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation (ANID) are managing the project in Togo.

Togo First notes the project is supported by $72 million in funding from the World Bank, from a total of $395 million for WURI.

The country’s National Agency for Identification (ANID) has originally planned to launch the test in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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