By Fungai Munetsi


Workers in Informal Economy Network Uganda (WIENU) proudly introduced the Workers in Informal Economy Social Protection Policy, also known as WIESOPS, on the 20th of June 2024 in Kampala, Uganda. WIENU, established in 2015, serves as a collective voice for informal economy workers and traders in Uganda and operates as an affiliate of StreetNet International. With an estimated 60% of workers in Uganda engaged in the informal economy, the need for social protection became a paramount concern.

The absence of essential safeguards such as health coverage, pension plans, accident prevention, and business insurance for informal economy workers globally prompted WIENU to develop the social protection policy. The formulation process began in 2017. After facing some delays due to unforeseen circumstances, the initiative resumed in 2023. WIENU successfully registered with the Uganda Registration Service Bureau, which is Uganda’s regulatory body overseeing social protection schemes. Furthermore, WIENU also completed its second registration with URBRA, the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority, ensuring good regulation practices.

The WIESOPS scheme is designed as a contributory system tailored to cater to low-income earners in Uganda’s informal economy as well as formally employed workers who are interested in the scheme. This includes various individuals, ranging from market vendors, farmers, and artisans supplying goods to traders operating in gazetted markets or designated areas. Despite the diversity within the informal economy, all workers and traders are covered by the scheme as each contributes their respective share towards it. WIENU collaborated with strategic partners, including financial institutions, to oversee contributions management and fund investment.

Key benefits of the WIESOPS scheme encompass health and medical benefits, funeral expenses, age-related benefits, withdrawal options, disability coverage, and survivor benefits.

Following the launch, Workers’ Rights Defender Jesca Mwijuka said that the launch of the social protection scheme marks a significant stride towards protecting informal economy workers, addressing a long-standing advocacy effort.

Commenting on the WIESOPS launch, Secretary General Wisborn Malaya of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) commended WIENU for pioneering social protection initiatives, benefiting both informal economy workers and traders, as well as those in the formal sector. He affirmed ZCIEA’s commitment to developing and launching a similar social protection policy to support informal economy workers and traders in Zimbabwe.

This milestone underscores a collaborative effort aimed at fostering social inclusion and safeguarding the welfare of workers within the informal economy.