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Africa’s share of global premium remains at 1.4%, says AIO



Mrs. Lamia Ben Mahmoud

.. Penetration is still low
The President of African Insurance Organisation (AIO), Mrs. Lamia Ben Mahmoud has lamented that Africa’s share of global insurance premium remains low at 1.4 per cent. Besides, penetration remained low with a premium/gross domestic product (GDP) ratio not exceeding one per cent in some countries. This is below the average rate of 2.7 per cent recorded in 2014 for the entire continent.

In her speech delivered at the 43rd Conference and General Assembly in Marrakech, Morocco, she said Africa’s share of the global insurance market is 1.1 per cent for non-life insurance business and 1.8 per cent for life business, adding that this is a demonstration of the enormous growth potential within the African insurance industry, an indicator that the market is still largely untapped.

In order to insure Africa’s future, she said, insurers all over the continent must devise strategies aimed at facing the numerous challenges today. According to her, within the past decade, the continent has been hit by some major challenges which have to a large extent hampered economic growth and affected the insurance sector tremendously.

She said: “I am referring to the recent drop in fuel prices, in fact, the price per barrel in January 2016 stood at approximately a quarter of its market value two years ago, and at the lowest point since 2003.” On the list of challenges, she identified cyber criminality, political instability, and insecurity with new waves of terrorist attacks, climate change and food security challenges.

“We still suffer from a shortage of skilled and experienced insurance professionals. As a result, large and complex risks are not retained within Africa but are ceded to foreign insurance markets because specialist risk management capabilities and high quality security are not sufficiently available. This leads to premium flight which threatens the viability of the domestic insurance industry. Moreover, there is still wide spread ignorance on the benefits of insurance. Added to this list is an acute insufficiency of product differentiation.

“We emphasise in this area on the need to strengthen the diversification of training in scientific and technical issues by leveraging new tools and instruments imposed by the development of technology to ensure greater communication of their knowledge and know-how.
“The challenges are many and daunting; especially in a context where the one size solution is outdated as customers now expect personalised insurance solutions.”

She said it is true that some of the solutions to these problems require a multidimensional approach with the input of other key actors required, adding that extending insurance cover to the informal segment of the population will increase penetration in Africa.

However, launching the first Africa Insurance Barometer at the conference, the Secretary General of the organization, Ms. Prisca Soares, said “The AIO aims to contribute to advancing Africa’s insurance markets for the benefit of our member’s organisations and also the overall economies and societies in which we operate”.

According to her “The Africa Insurance Barometer offers a succinct summary of the key regional insurance market data and highlights the relevant trends and developments of our industry. We thereby provide greater transparency of the African insurance markets, while facilitating and encouraging an informed dialogue about its opportunities and challenges”.

The growth and expansion of Africa’s insurance markets is closely linked to the economic boom that the region experienced in recent years. While investments into infrastructure and construction grew and the affluence of Africa’s population improved, insurance’s relevance increased. The insurance market’s robustness improved significantly, partly due to tighter regulation and also enhanced distribution of insurance products through bancassurance and mobile phone distribution. Insurance penetration remained exceptionally low. In some countries it only amounts to less than one per cent well below the global emerging market average of 2.7 per cent in 2014, demonstrating the enormous growth potential within the industry.

Besides, declining rates will affect profitability and Africa’s insurance industry ability to grow. The insurance executives polled hope for more investments in infrastructure and that further personal lines will become compulsory. Micro insurance is seen as a driver for growth, although it is frequently perceived as insufficiently regulated. At the same time, rates are coming down due to excessive risk capacity in the market.

Africa’s insurance markets are perceived as diverse and fragmented. Regulation is seen as inadequate because undercapitalized companies are still thriving, while competing on a price rather than service or qualities. Cross-border business suffers from a lack of regulatory harmonization. Executives therefore demand closed cooperation between regulators, often citing the CIMA the Inter African Conference of Insurance Markets, as an example of a successful regional collaboration.

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