Insurers should recognise changes affecting their markets both at the global and continental levels, said Ms Aretha Duku, Managing Director of Ghana Union Assurance (GUA), outgoing President of AIO, at the opening of the 46th African Insurance Organisation (AIO) Conference and Annual General Assembly, held in Johannesburg last week.
She noted that insurers in Africa need to make appropriate changes in line with their markets’ needs and be mindful of technology and regulatory updates. At the same time, they need to invest in customer research to enable access and affordability to the underinsured and uninsured in order to increase penetration. Insurers should also groom talent and adapt continually to changes.
Citing figures from Swiss Re's Sigma world insurance report, she commended the progress of the African insurance industry over the past few years. In 2017, premium income generated in the continent grew by 12.6% to $66.7bn, outpacing average global growth of 4%. In Africa, non-life business increased by 9.27% to $21.8bn in 2017, while life grew strongly at 13.7% to $44.8bn. South Africa still dominates the largest market share of 71.7% of the continent’s premiums, followed by Morocco at 5.6%, Kenya 3% and Egypt 2.4%.
With an estimated population of 1.3bn in early 2019, Africans represent 16.5% of the world’s population and the continent will soon become the youngest and second most populous worldwide, Ms Duku said. Despite this, the continent still had a very low insurance penetration, she noted.
However, she pointed out that the low insurance penetration presents the continent’s largest opportunity and insurers are exerting huge efforts and benefiting from modern techniques to increase insurance penetration. “Insurers are offering a wide range of products, at the same time extending their distribution. Commercial and personal lines are being innovated as a result of technology and this has helped bridge distances, increase scale and improve decisions... We have the resources, knowhow and the partners to change the situation.”
Increasing intra-African ties
Delivering the keynote address, Mr Ismail Momoniat, deputy director general of South Africa's National Treasury and head of the tax and financial policy division, said that one of the biggest challenges facing the continent is that intra-African trade is extremely low and there is a need to deepen economic links between African countries.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement which was recently launched aims to increase trade and lower barriers between African countries, said Mr Momoniat. “The financial sector sometimes takes the lead in developing linkages between countries.”
He said that having insurance companies expanding beyond their local markets to other countries in the continent is a positive and lucrative engagement that should be encouraged to achieve the goal of integration. “We should find the means for companies to crisscross from one country to another.”
He also urged insurers in Africa to strengthen customer centricity and look into how to serve the needs of those with low incomes in order to increase financial inclusion as well as improve low insurance penetration levels.
With the presidency of AIO to be assumed by South Africa this year, Ms Delphine Traoré, Allianz Africa COO, was named as the president of the AIO for the current term. She served as vice president of the organisation in 2018.
Delivering her first speech as president of the AIO, Ms Traoré revealed that the organisation has been working on adopting a new strategy which was approved at this year’s General Assembly. She noted that the new strategy will be led by a new secretary general Mr Jean-Baptiste Ntukamazina from Rwanda, who served as AIO president in 2014. He will take over from Ms Prisca Soares who is retiring.
Ms Traoré stressed her commitment to implement the new strategy which includes a new vision for the AIO built on increasing collaboration amongst members to strengthen the continent’s insurance industry. “It will be important for us as the African insurance industry to become a stronger, united and prosperous market. Today we represent less than 2% of the global insurance market. There is no reason why this should be so.”
She added that Africa is the most promising in terms of resources and a young population, spelling huge potential ahead.
The 46th AIO Conference was held during 9-12 June with the theme “Insurance Penetration in Africa: Insuring the uninsured”. More than 1,000 delegates representing over 60 countries attended the event. The next AIO conference and general assembly in 2020 will be hosted by Nigeria in Abuja.
The AIO, established in 1972, is a non-governmental organisation recognised by many African governments. It aims to develop a healthy insurance and reinsurance industry in Africa and promotes intra-African cooperation in insurance. Currently, the AIO has 358 members, 342 of them from 47 countries in Africa and 16 associate international members from nine countries.