By Zainab Iwayemi
African insurance practitioners have called for an expedited indigenous approach to breaking the cultural and religious barriers that have over time hampered the level of growth of the insurance industry on the continent.
Over time, Africa has seen low insurance penetration which has been traced to diverse social problems ranging from technology, lower purchasing power, lower literacy level, lack of some necessary infrastructure, amongst others. However, insurance industry practitioners with broader insights on the industry and its operating environment have at a symposium, agreed that traditional differences are major hindrances to the industry’s growth across the continent.
“Culture inhibits insurance in Nigeria,” Adedamola Oloko, a proponent of insurtech in Nigeria said during a webinar themed, ‘Microinsurance, Alternative Distribution and Innovation: The Secret of Insurance in Africa’, monitored by Business A.M., while consenting to the view that culture serves as a major setback. Explaining further, Adedamola said that Nigerians don’t like to indulge in conversations that involve death.
“The problem stem from the fact that we import some of these products instead of going from the customer to the product,” he opined.
Similarly, Akinlolu Akinyele, head, oil and gas, Aviation and SME business at AXA Mansard Nigeria, while speaking during the virtual event noted that dealing with customers, especially at the individual level, could be confusing.
“It is confusing working with people of different characteristics. For corporate market, it is easier because knowledge of insurance is quite firm and all you need do is demonstrate technical competence and financial strength,” Akinyele explained.
From a larger context, Eunice Maina, the CEO of Bismart Insurance in Kenya, associated the low penetration of insurance in the east African country to the traditional nature of insurance practiced in Kenya. She asserted that the largest economy in east Africa practices informal insurance resulting in the low penetration of the market.
“Kenya practices informal insurance in the form of crowdfunding and that has affected the penetration rate,” she said.
However, Maina is of the view that rather than adopting the European pattern, traditional insurance should be developed without having to deviate from the African model. She, therefore, solicited for the use of African perspective in developing insurance in the region as techniques to tackle cultural and religious barriers in the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, charting the way forward as solutions to the cultural barrier, the industry practitioners have called for the need to redesign insurance products that suit and meet customer’s needs.
Oloko said there is a need to put into cognizance factors that would not conflict with cultures by modelling insurance to fit African structure.
Similarly, Ola Oyekan, one of the panellists at the virtual event, said insurance products have to meet customers’ need and further asked that insurers should learn to design products by what they can serve, as well as the need to know customer and what they need.
On the other hand, Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon, an insurance management strategist and consultant, in a note to Business A.M. opined that culture and religion are mere excuses used by insurance companies in their failure to deliver as expected. The insurance strategist noted that gearing efforts towards enhancing awareness would heighten interest in insurance.
“Culture and religion are only major hindrances to the extent of what people know about insurance in comparison to those two issues. The only way to tackle these issues we call barriers is to feed them with much knowledge of insurance and risk management that they can appreciate the differences and know how to act and react when necessary.
“For example, if people knew and believed that they will be compensated when something goes wrong, why won’t they insure? They have used culture and religion as excuses because insurance as they know today, is failing people,” he said.