Since the recent collapse of Chase Bank we’ve been treated to a potpourri of narratives as stakeholders flip the dice in a bid to understand the events prior to the lender’s seizure.

But as the bank’s salvage story retreats to the boardroom, let me switch your attention to the insurance sector.

Last week I attended an event organised by AB Consultants, a micro-insurance capacity building firm.

The event was basically a platform to exchange ideas on the successes and challenges of micro-insurance across the continent. It was the first such major conference held in Kenya and the third regional conference, after Nigeria and Zambia.

Regulators and some of the key players across 13 countries took the opportunity to narrate their experiences.

Well, micro-insurance has been identified as the key avenue for growing insurance penetration, as it provides for a mechanism to protect the low-income population against such risks as accidents, illnesses and even natural calamities, in exchange for premiums tailored to their needs and income cycles.

However, the definition of micro-insurance is a big variable. Defining micro-insurance is so important that, according to the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), products currently being sold in Kenya may not qualify to be micro-insurance if they are subjected to the strict definition of the word.

So clearly access to and use of micro-insurance remains a concern. However, as the deliberations unfolded three key drawbacks to the industry were stressed.

First is distribution. The current distribution infrastructure doesn’t appear cost-suited to drive micro-insurance penetration — partly because underwriters still treat the industry’s products like conventional insurance products.

Collaboration between mobile network operators (MNOs) and underwriters is inevitable, in the long term. However, managing these relationships will also be crucial, especially in striking a consensus on who really owns the customer (ostensibly to reduce risks of cannibalism).

Some high-profile relationships in this space have failed before — most notably Linda Jamii, a collaboration between Safaricom, Britam and Changamka Microhealth. Second, there are gaps on the product side.

Source: Business Daily