Economic growth across the continent is actively reshaping Africa’s historically underdeveloped insurance market according to a recent report by McKinsey and Company, which outlines the trajectory of the African insurance market’s growth and the potential for prodigious development of the sector. Currently the second fastest-growing insurance market in the world, trailing behind Latin America, the African insurance market was expected to grow, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, at 7 percent per annum from 2020 to 2025. This projection placed the African insurance market’s growth at approximately twice the rate of North America, more than three times the rate of Europe, and slightly higher than Asia’s 6 percent growth rate. Furthermore, although the pandemic has upended consumer and commercial discretionary expenditures, including insurance, the report posits that the pandemic will delay, not alter, Africa’s insurance growth pattern, as well as accelerate the shift toward digital and remote platforms.
The African insurance industry currently holds a valuation of $68 billion as measured by gross written premiums, which the International Risk Management Institute defines as “the total premium (direct and assumed) written by an insurer before deductions for reinsurance and ceding commissions.” In comparison to other emerging markets, Swiss Re reports Latin America and the Caribbean contain a $157 billion insurance market, and Asia (excluding China) occupies a $194 billion insurance market in 2019. Moreover, Africa’s insurance market is highly fragmented and maintains inconsistent distribution among countries. For example, 91 percent of insurance premiums are concentrated in just 10 countries, the largest of which, South Africa, holds 70 percent of the market’s premiums. Beyond South Africa, McKinsey identifies six “primary insurance regions in Africa”: Francophone Africa, Anglophone West Africa, southern Africa, North Africa, East Africa, and Angola. Notably, North Africa’s market share, second-largest after South Africa’s, is nearly three times larger than all other regions’.
The composition of insurance products by region is also quite heterogeneous, as southern and Anglophone West Africa maintain a roughly even distribution between nonlife and life insurance products; nonlife insurance policies dominate the market in Francophone, North, East Africa, and Angola; and life insurance policies comprise the majority of South Africa’s insurance products. Market penetration, as measured by the value of insurance issuance (the gross written premium, or GWP) as a percentage of nominal GDP, in Africa is half of the global average and premiums per capita are 11 times lower than the global average. According to the authors, this low level of market penetration among all African regions, even South Africa, suggests that Africa’s double-digit growth in insurance issuance has been driven more by economic growth than intensifying market penetration. McKinsey subsequently forecasts that, after the pandemic, consumers will utilize in-person and direct communication channels such as physical visits to bank branches and phone calls or video chats with bankers less frequently across all countries sampled. The McKinsey analysts perceive this trend as a positive development in accelerating insurance distribution in Africa.
Notably, increased penetration rates for insurance throughout African markets are directly connected to Africa’s overall development: Indeed, as Das, Davies, and Podpiera (2003) show, insurance can have positive effects on growth through six mechanisms: improving financial stability for businesses and households; mobilizing savings for public and private investment; reducing pressure on the government to provide public goods such as pensions; encouraging trade and entrepreneurship; mitigating risks and enhanced diversification; and improving social living standards. Other scholars have identified insurance premium thresholds associated with positive economic growth in Africa. Studies of Rwanda’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) found that increased enrollment was accompanied by higher utilization of health facilities as well a higher presence of skilled-birth attendants.
Despite these advantages, Africa’s aggregate insurance penetration rate in 2019 was only 2.78 percent, compared to the global average insurance penetration rate of 7.23 percent. With increased entry, participation, and expansion from traditional insurance companies and new microinsurance companies (as well as reinsurance companies), the potential for growth across the continent is immense. Recent disruptive events including an increasing number of natural disasters, political upheavals, and economic disruptions from current and future pandemics will continue to increase demand and foster rapid growth throughout this sector, particularly of digital insurance platforms.
The insurance sector is comprised of three subcategories: life insurance, nonlife insurance, and reinsurance. African countries have grown in each of these market segments at varying paces, following their own diverse growth patterns. For example, South Africa’s market is dominated by life insurance premiums, while other countries, like Kenya, Nigeria, and Tunisia, have a much higher volume of nonlife insurance premiums than life ones. These patterns are suggestive of future trends and point to vast, untapped markets for companies seeking to deliver insurance products that are both affordable and well suited to the mass market. Indeed, just five countries house about 84 percent of the estimated $68.15 billion total value of the continent’s insurance market. South Africa is the leader with about 70 percent of the total market share, followed by Morocco, Kenya, Egypt, and Nigeria. In most other African markets, though, the penetration rate remains below 2 percent. More specifically, life insurance market penetration has been slow because of the demand for specialized risk-management capacities and heavy investment in security and information gathering, which has left the sector fragmented and dependent on foreign investment. Five countries (South Africa, Morocco, Namibia, Kenya, and Egypt) comprise 92 percent of the life insurance market on the continent. Although McKinsey expressed concern about South Africa’s life insurance market losing ground given the COVID-19 crisis, low market penetration combined with expected increased consumer and business spending by 2030 will continue to create plenty of opportunities in less developed markets across the continent. Key to the sector’s growth and expansion is the region’s rapidly growing middle class, who can particularly find greater household stability with life insurance. As this segment of the population becomes increasingly aware of the value insurance provides to their households and businesses, they will be more inclined to spend more of their disposable incomes on insurance: In fact, according to an Ernst and Young 2016 survey of African insurance companies, increased earnings in households and businesses were the leading driver of increased insurance premiums.
The pandemic affords an opportunity in the form of consolidation: Unsustainable and inefficient players may be forced out of the market, facilitating innovation, healthy competition among thriving companies, and better coverage. Other experts suggest that commercial insurance for businesses will outpace the growth of individual insurance coverage over the next year, partly because of increasing reinsurance rates. The pandemic has also accelerated the digitalization of local insurance companies, opening the door for a more accessible and inclusive insurance industry in the long term, which could be fostered by a conducive policy environment.
While opportunities abound, there are also risks and challenges for the industry to overcome, including COVID-19 and future pandemics; a decentralized cross-country market with regulatory barriers; gaps in regulatory enforcement; a shortage of technical human capital; low demand for insurance; and market volatility. Thankfully, investment mitigation strategies can help overcome these hurdles: For example, companies will need to invest in both human capital (training and developing qualified staff) and information technologies, adapt to trends in the market, and pursue innovative strategies. Partnerships between companies need to be focused on improving product differentiation, working with government to fill regulatory gaps and barriers, and increasing product awareness in the marketplace.
Africa’s underdeveloped insurance market represents an opportunity both for players in the insurance sector and for African societies in general. The first credible and convenient insurance providers will reap enormous rewards as this sector develops becoming pioneers in the region. Moreover, African households and businesses can benefit from the reduced risks and increased stability that insurance products can provide.
Technology adoption and innovation are the keys to growth in the African insurance industry. Microinsurance could also change the name of the game, as it can reach Africa’s rising middle class through small-scale, low-cost, low-risk products. MicroEnsure, which partners with telecommunications firms, is an example of a successful microfinance venture that offers basic health and life insurance coverage through a free add-on to customers’ existing mobile phone services. Furthermore, micro-health insurance products like Jamii have also entered the market, bringing affordable coverage to low-income populations. Similarly, health financing has been radically changed by mobile and online platforms: M-Tiba facilitates digital management of both public and private health insurance policies through partnerships with governments and providers.
Recognizing the role the insurance market can play in development, African governments are also working to improve the regulatory climate for insurance investors. Diversification, partnership, and cross-collaboration among insurers and banks is the foundation required to create economies of scale and increase revenues for both sectors. These partnerships, coupled with accelerated digitization to online and mobile platforms, have the potential to increase cost efficiencies and profit margins throughout Africa’s insurance sector completely transforming the insurance industry.
A standing committee of the AEF Insurance industry committee (HCIC). It provides global advisory and related industry insights to the Insurance industry committee on how to globally scale-up the operations and impact of the Insurance industry in Africa; to promote its global competitiveness and improve its collaboration with science and technology Research Institutions in Africa and other parts of the world. It would also help to build collaborations with other partners in other parts of the world.
It would be made up of the following:
Would be responsible for the oversight of Insurance industry committee. It will work to ensure the continued growth and development of the Insurance industry committee in Africa and to promote its continued upscaling within the African region and globally.
It would be made up of:
Would be responsible for the review of emerging technical, business, political and related issues impacting on the industry in Africa and advising the Insurance industry committee appropriately. It shall have powers to set up various technical and or expert committees to execute various aspects of its assignment related to the industry in Africa with a view to enhancing its growth and development including organizing various meetings for this purpose.
Membership of the committee:
Would be responsible for the smooth engagement of the Insurance Industry in Africa with relevant Government Agencies/regulatory bodies concerned with the setting up and or operations of the Insurance industry in Africa. It will ensure continued the good relationship of members of the Insurance Industry committee and various public agencies concerned with regulation and or operations of the industry in Africa. It would ensure the creation and operation of appropriate platforms for promoting good understanding between the industry members and those of the relevant publics in Africa
Membership of the Committee:
Nominations are invited for membership of the following committees.