African insurance penetration rate drops two percent

African average insurance penetration rate dropped from 2.78 per cent in 2019 to 2 per cent in 2020.

This is even as the global average penetration rate was 7.20 per cent in 2019 and went up to 7.40 per cent in 2020.

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Speaking at the Insurance Retreat for Africa organised by the Government of Zanzibar and held between 26th – 28th January, 2022 at Madinat el Bahr, Zanzibar, the president, African Insurance Organisation (AIO), Mr. Tope Smart, said: “In 2019, while the global average penetration rate was 7.20% that of Africa was 2.78%. In year 2020 while the global average went up to 7.40%, that of Africa came down significantly to about 2%. This should be of great concern to us as a region.”

Tope Smart who is also the group managing director/CEO, NEM Insurance Plc attributed the low insurance penetration on the continent to; low income, low awareness level, failure to embrace digital technology, high level of financial exclusion, lack of infrastructural & distribution channels, lack of domestic skills and a shortage of data, even as insurers also battle brain drain.

Stating that regulators are not keeping pace with innovation, as timing and implementation of regulatory changes need to be looked into, he stressed that, lack of consumer trust as presence of weak companies erode trust, pricing and other market related issues, cultural related issues, fragmentation and over competition, were hindrances to the insurance penetration on the continent.

He charged relevant stakeholders to address these barriers in a bid to galvanise insurance sector in Africa to a level comparable to other regions in the world.

“If the issues highlighted are critically addressed, the result will lead to a significant growth of the insurance sector. It is also important to mention that the underlying economic growth forms the most important catalyst for growth and good enough, the outlook for GDP growth is strong across markets,” he pointed out.

The coming up of African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), an initiative of African Union, he said, is a game changer for the Insurance sector.

Since Insurance plays a major role in the economic development of the continent, he said, the expected increase in intra-African trade through AFCFTA is will lead to higher insurance penetration across the region.

To him, “the potential to increase life insurance growth is note worthy. In many markets apart from South Africa, non-life represents at least 65% of total premium income with even some up to 85% (Tanzania & Uganda). Given this scenario, the potential opportunity to expand life insurance is very great.”

The event which was organised by the Government of Zanzibar, had in attendance, its president, commissioners of Insurance, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe as well as about 200 insurers.


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