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PRESS RELEASE May 27, 2020

“WURI West Africa Prize” Calls for Innovations to Include the Informal Sector in Social Protection Programs

Half a billion people in Sub Saharan Africa lack access to foundational identification and to social protection programs. The World Bank’s Mission Billion and Africa Regional Integration Department call for innovative solutions to this development challenge

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2020— The World Bank Group announced today the launch of the Mission Billion Challenge “WURI West Africa Prize” to seek innovative solutions that augment inclusion of informal workers in social protection through flexible benefits platforms and identification systems. The Challenge offers cash prizes totaling US$150,000 for the most promising ideas that help countries to include informal workers in shock-responsive social protection programs. 

The West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) program facilitates access to services through foundational identification platforms for all persons in participating territories. The Mission Billion Challenge is hosted by the World Bank’s Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative. The WURI West Africa Prize is supported by ID4D, Rapid Social Response Program (RSR) and Disruptive Technologies for Development (DT4D).

The 2020 Mission Billion Challenge comes at a time of an unprecedented global crisis. The pandemic highlights the importance of platforms (such as foundational IDs, government to person (G2P) payments, and social registries) to quickly scale up or to introduce new social protection programs. Countries with such platforms have been able to efficiently deliver relief payments to informal workers, migrant workers, and other vulnerable populations who are difficult to identify and not commonly included in social safety nets. 

The WURI West Africa Prize is seeking innovative solutions that facilitate cross border contributions to social insurance programs, such as pensions and savings accounts, by informal sector workers. More than 80 percent of workers in Sub Saharan Africa are in the informal sector, and nearly 90 percent of employed women are informal workers. 

“The informal sector faces distinct challenges such as irregular and low incomes. Social insurance programs designed to meet the needs of these workers, such as allowing flexible contributions and withdrawals, would increase coverage and help enable governments to provide prompt relief payments to these groups during crises,” said Michal Rutkowski, World Bank Global Director for the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice. 

“Persistent informality continues to pose the greatest challenge for emerging economies, particularly in times of crises”, says Coralie Gevers, World Bank Country Director for Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Guinea and Togo.  “Foundational unique identification systems such as those supported by the WURI Program can play an important role in delivering and managing social protection programs and promoting cross-border responses by linking national systems”, says Deborah Wetzel, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Africa.

Individuals and organizations with a strong passion for developing innovative solutions are encouraged to apply. Submitted solutions to the Challenge will be reviewed by experts in social protection platforms, digital identification and international development.

Finalists will receive mentorship and support from Google Developers Experts and be invited to a high-level Mission Billion event to present their solutions to distinguished judges in October 2020.

The Mission Billion Challenge is open. The submission deadline is August 14, 2020. To learn more about the Challenge, visit: or

About the West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) program

The WURI Program is a $395.1 million 10-year International Development Association (IDA) operation supported by the Regional Integration Window to build foundational ID systems that are interoperable across Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger, and Togo. The Program will cover 100 million people to help achieve human development and financial inclusion goals. 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. 



In Washington: Aby K. Toure,

In Cte d’Ivoire: Enoh Ndri Nguessan,

In Benin: Yao Gnona Afangbedji,

In Burkina Faso: Lionel Yaro,

In Guinea: Mamadou Bah,

In Niger: Mouslim Sidi Mohamed,

In Togo: Yao Gnona Afangbedji,