Mission Billion Challenge: WURI West Africa Prize

Seeking sustainable, tech-based solutions that facilitate social insurance

How can informal sector workers in West Africa more easily participate in social protection programs?

Challenge Overview

The Mission Billion Challenge WURI West Africa Prize seeks sustainable, tech-based solutions that facilitate portable contributions to social insurance programs, such as pensions and savings accounts, by informal sector workers in West Africa.

Examples of similar innovations include:

The informal sector in West Africa is a primary driver of economic activity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 89 percent of employed women and girls are in the informal sector workforce, which accounts for 80 percent of total employment and 55 percent of total GDP. The irregular and low earnings of informal workers leave them particularly vulnerable to economic shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, locust epidemics, or displacement.

However, individuals in the informal sector often fall through the cracks of existing social protection programs. They are often not poor enough to be eligible for social safety net benefits; and, being outside of the formal economy, are ineligible for social insurance programs mandated for the formal sector. They thus constitute the “missing middle”. Many informal jobs require migration throughout the region, including across borders. And although the sector encompasses a diverse range of occupations at varying skill and income levels, many workers are not financially, digitally, or otherwise literate.

Inclusive short-and long-term social insurance programs, such as unemployment insurance savings accounts and long-term savings accounts for pensions are critical instruments to safeguarding these communities, especially during crises. Increasing enrollment and participation in flexible social insurance schemes, tailored to the needs of informal sector workers, would pave the way for governments to preserve livelihoods and build resilience against future shocks.

The rapid growth of digital innovation in Africa can be leveraged to re-imagine how social insurance is delivered, expanding coverage to the “missing middle” by facilitating and increasing enrollment and contributions to savings programs. A key criterion for solutions to succeed is their ability to reach scale; and, therefore, to reduce long-term costs for the schemes to be viable.

Through its West Africa Unique Identification for Regional Integration and Inclusion (WURI) program and funded by the Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative, Rapid Social Response program, and the Disruptive Technologies for Development (DT4D) initiative, the World Bank has launched the Mission Billion Challenge WURI West Africa Prize to surface tech-based and human-centered solutions that strengthen social insurance systems at the regional level.

For us to succeed in including the informal sector in social protection programs, it will be necessary to build digital platforms that leverage a unique, regionally interoperable ID, government-to-person (G2P) payments, social information systems, and mobile technology to enable a new approach to social insurance schemes which are not based on a standard employment contract, and which are flexible across borders. We are seeking innovative solutions that facilitate contributions from and payments to informal sector workers by:

  • Deploying features that promote the continuity of contributions to social insurance schemes from informal sector workers, incorporating behavioral tools that incentivize and encourage financial savings, transparency, and accountability.
  • Deploying features that encourage contributions regardless of literacy and numeracy levels—including in contexts with limited internet coverage.
  • Deploying features that make use of regionally interoperable foundational ID systems, which can be accessed across borders, network providers, and languages—thereby allowing workers to receive services and make contributions or withdrawals regardless of their origin or current location.

To this end, WURI is hosting the West Africa Prize of the Mission Billion Challenge to find solutions to these problems. Mission Billion Challenge winners are eligible to receive a total prize of up to $150,000, participate in a high-level event at the World Bank, and receive mentorship and support from Google Developers Experts.

To learn about the Global Prize, please visit the Mission Billion Challenge Global Prize Application.

Who can apply to the Mission Billion Challenge?

  1. Individuals, including academics, entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists and other engaged citizens.
  2. Organizations involved in research, advocacy, design and implementation of digital identification, digital payment or social protection systems.

Please note:

  • Individuals must be of at least 18 years of age at time of entry
  • Organizations must be legally established entities (profit, non-profit, academic) in their respective countries.

For full participation details, please refer to the Official Rules.

How are we CrowdSolving the Mission Billion Challenge?

  • Sourcing solutions: Anyone, anywhere around the world can submit a solution to the Mission Billion Challenge. You can be an individual, a team, or an organization. Whether you’ve just started building your solution and your team, you’re running a pilot, or you’re ready to scale, we’re looking for innovators and entrepreneurs with the best solutions.
  • Selecting solutions: Once the submission deadline passes (see timeline for dates), judging begins. After an initial screening by World Bank and MIT Solve staff, Mission Billion judges select the most promising solutions as finalists. These finalists will be invited to pitch their solutions live at the Mission Billion Challenge Pitch Event to be held during the World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., where judges will select the winners.

What type of solutions will be accepted to the Mission Billion Challenge?

Solution applications must be written in English or French. The Mission Billion Challenge will consider solutions at all stages of development:

  • Idea: A plan or concept by an individual or organization.
  • Prototype: An individual or organization building and testing a product, service, or model.
  • Pilot: An individual or organization deploying a tested product, service, or model in at least one location.
  • Growth: An individual or organization with an established product, service or model rolled out, which is poised for further growth in multiple locations.
  • Scale: An individual or organization working in several locations and that is looking to scale significantly, focusing on increased efficiency.

The most important thing is that your solution addresses the focus of the Mission Billion Challenge. Through open innovation, Mission Billion and WURI are looking for a diverse portfolio of solutions across geography, development stage, and team members’ gender and background. We encourage people of all backgrounds to submit applications.

How will my solution be evaluated?

The judging committee for the Mission Billion will be comprised of international experts, staff members of the World Bank and partner organizations. After an initial screening by World Bank and MIT Solve staff, the judges will score the screened solutions based on the following criteria:

  • Alignment: The idea or solution addresses the challenge that has been set forth.
  • Context Appropriateness: The idea or solution – whether it is a global or a regional submission – takes into account the context of developing countries, including low to no connectivity in some areas and little formal technical training among individuals, as well as low literacy and numeracy levels.
  • Scalability and Ease of Use: The idea or solution can easily be scaled to affect the lives of millions of people.
  • Feasibility: It is feasible to implement the idea or solution, and the team has a plan for the solution to sustain itself after implementation.
  • Innovative Approach: This is a new technology, a new application of a technology, a new idea, or a new process for solving the challenge.

Selected finalists will pitch before the judges and a live audience at the Mission Billion Challenge Pitch Event to be held during the World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in October 2020. The judges will determine which solutions are the most promising and those selected will receive prize funding and support from the World Bank and its partners.

Mission Billion Challenge Timeline

  • May 27, 2020 – Mission Billion Challenge opens
  • August 14, 2020 – Deadline for applicants to submit a solution
  • September 16, 2020 – Finalists Announced
  • October 16-18, 2020 – Pitch Event during World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.


August 14, 2020
Program dates Jul 29, 2020: 9:00
Organizer MIT SOLVE
Website Visit website
Targets Sub-Saharan Africa
Sectors Diversified services, EdTech, HealthTech, ICT, Insurance