Possible opportunities for insurers in sub-Saharan Africa

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Zambia, Ghana and Kenya will offer the most attractive mix of rewards and risk for insurers over the next three years, and other sub-Saharan markets will present new opportunities due to sustainable economic expansion and demographic transformation, according to the EY report Waves of change: revisited — insurance opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa.

The recent survey of 125 insurance executives and regulators in the sub-Saharan region evaluated growth opportunities for insurance premiums and risk potential in seven key English-speaking markets in East and West Africa: Ghana; Kenya; Malawi; Nigeria; Tanzania; Uganda; and Zambia. The risk and opportunity matrix was created by analysing economic conditions and potential hazards in each of the seven countries in the survey.

Zambia ranks first in sub-Saharan Africa in growth opportunity for insurers, followed by Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. Ghana offers the least amount of risk, followed by Zambia and Kenya. Insurers will need confidence that the fiscal intervention that occurred in the past will not recur. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, ranks seventh in the amount of risk posed to insurers.

Trevor Rorbye, Insurance Advisory Leader at EY, says:

“Significant population growth, rapidly rising incomes and the relatively low penetration of insurance products suggest great potential for both life and non-life products in sub-Saharan Africa. There are also openings for insurers to introduce innovations in motor insurance, end-to-end mobile insurance purchases, consumer education and fraud prevention. While insurers will need to address challenges involving talent in emerging markets, market volatility, increased regulation and the lack of technological capacity, among others, there are opportunities for growth in the region.”

Zambia, Ghana and Kenya lead in attractiveness

Zambia offers the most attractive mix of opportunity and risk over the next three years, according to the research, as 40% of its population lives in cities, higher than other nations in the survey, except Nigeria and Ghana. Consolidation is helping Zambia’s insurance industry grow on a firmer footing, the report finds, with the number of insurance brokers decreasing to 39 in 2015 from 48 in 2014.

The research expects 8.5% annual growth for Ghana’s insurance market between 2014 and 2018, expanding from US$400m to $600m. Just one in 10 Ghanaians own any kind of insurance, though the country has been the focus of foreign investors who have harnessed competition among mobile phone providers to offer free insurance as a market differentiator, the report finds.

Kenya is the most mature market among the seven countries included in the report, which forecasts that its insurance market will grow to $2.2bn by 2018 from $1.8bn in 2014. Respondents from Kenya view regulatory changes and mobile underwriting platforms as potential growth drivers in the coming years, the report finds.

Rohan Sachdev, Global Insurance Emerging Markets Leader at EY, says: “Insurance executives have reason to be optimistic about these African markets. As a greater percentage of the population moves to urban areas and gains affluence, insurance purchases to cover health care and items such as cars are more likely. The sub-Saharan economies are among the world’s fastest growing, and foreign investors are recognising the opportunities these markets present.”

GDP improvement will drive premium growth in sub-Saharan Africa

Despite lower oil and agricultural commodity prices and economic slowdowns in other parts of the world, the sub-Saharan region’s economic outlook remains positive, the report finds. Forty-one percent of insurance executives and regulators surveyed believe GDP growth is the most important driver of future premium growth in the region. Product innovation (22%), regulatory changes (15%), competition (11%) and technological changes (10%) are other key drivers of premium growth.

Larger populations and the movement of people from rural to urban areas will also promote growth for insurers. The number of Africans joining the working-age population (ages 15 to 64) will exceed that from the rest of the world combined by 2035, according to the report, providing new opportunities for insurance penetration.

New technologies will reach new customers

Cross-industry collaborative insurance products, such as partnering with mobile phone carriers, will be a key building block for growth, according to 75% of respondents. Seventy-four percent say online underwriting platforms and 73% say mobile underwriting platforms will be important growth drivers, as many consumers use mobile phones to conduct financial transactions.

Face-to-face sales remain critical

Personal connections still matter, even as digital platforms become increasingly important to insurers. Agents and brokers, in all seven countries surveyed, account for at least 50% of policies sold, as customers still require education about insurance coverage.

Finding the right talent as insurers grow in these markets, remains a challenge, with 30% of respondents saying it is difficult to find qualified agents. Identifying technical talent who can build mobile and web enabled insurance applications is also a challenge, the report finds.