Mr. Tope Smart, is the group managing director/CEO, NEM Insurance Plc and president, African Insurers Association (AIO). In this interview, he explains why insurance growth is stunted in Africa and how the narrative can be changed among others.
You are a Nigerian leading other African insurers. Does it mean Nigeria’s insurance industry is so robust?
I am very excited about this because, in the first place, it is a big honour for Nigeria. The last time a Nigerian occupied this position was about 21 years ago. With this position, there is an assurance that the Nigerian flag will be flown at the very top level at least, for the next one year.
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Secondly, this new position presents me with an opportunity to come up with some initiatives that will change the narrative about the practice of insurance across Africa. It presents an opportunity to correct some negative conversations around insurance practice in Africa.
What are your plans to promote insurance penetration?
I set out a five-point agenda to be achieved during my presidency. These include: Increased awareness; adoption of digitisation; collaboration with other markets; collaboration with government and regulators and building customers’ trust. I have started with the issue of consumer trust. This is a major barrier to the growth of insurance in Africa. Meeting up claim obligations by operators as and when due will address this issue.
The five-point agenda of my administration, if well pursued, will achieve one thing, and that is to increase the rate of insurance penetration across Africa.
The African Insurers Organisation (AIO) is like a microcosm of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), as it were. Don’t forget that one of the cardinal objectives of AIO is to promote inter-African cooperation in insurance business. So, with AfCTA, the removal of trade barriers will lead to an increase in intra-African trade and this will lead to an increase in demand for insurance across Africa.
My responsibility is to engage all the stakeholders in the insurance sector in Africa to take advantage of this initiative so as to grow the sector.
How will AIO improve cross-border collaboration for insurance businesses?
This is part of my agenda. I will encourage markets across the region to share information and experience with one another. Such information can be very useful and the receiving markets can use them to further advance the growth of insurance in their domain.
Your administration has just nine months, how well can you perform before the next AIO meeting in Kenya?
I shall work towards the achievement of the agenda. In any case, wherever I stop, having laid a good foundation, I will expect my successor to continue from there in the interest of the insurance sector in Africa.