Can Nigeria Lead Africa’s Insurance Industry?

Tuesday, September 07,
2021  / 12:25 PM / OpEd
By Ekerete Ola Gam-Ikon / Header Image Credit: NetOwl/Ecographics 

 

What it takes to lead can seem arduous and ephemeral
depending on where you stand but when the time comes for you to take the
responsibility, you will find the strength you eventually need to get the
job done.

 

The challenge of COVID-19 pandemic remains damning and
yet the biggest threat to mankind, however in it we have found the edge not
only to survive, but also thrive.

 

Nigeria remains the nation that thrives in diversity
and survives, sometimes, unimaginable challenges and battles. The people do not
give up on themselves, no matter the situation.

 

So, when the 47th African Insurance Organisation
Conference was scheduled to be hosted by Nigeria in 2020, and no one saw
COVID-19 pandemic ahead, it was feared that the conference might be cancelled
like several global events.

 

However, the Pan-African organization in conjunction
with the Local Organising Committee in Nigeria took the daring approach of the
International Olympics Committee and the Japanese LOC to rather postpone than
cancel the event.

 

It turned out that it was the right decision as the
host country, Nigeria, showed that it could provide needed leadership of the
insurance industry in Africa post COVID-19.

 

Note that at every AIO Conference, the Nigerian
delegates have always been 65 percent of the total number of participants thus
leading in terms of numbers. Therefore, this year’s event held in Nigeria could
not be different and indeed, had many more Nigerians in the room,
notwithstanding the need to respect COVID-19 protocols regarding public
gatherings.

 

With the theme, “Rebuilding Africa’s Economy –
The Insurance Perspective” and the quality of presentations and
discussions at the conference, the Nigerian insurance industry was challenged
to lead the post-COVID-19 insurance industry. Some asked “Can this
happen?” Yes, I responded, if the leadership of the insurance industry in
Nigeria would take the following three steps:

 

1. Maintaining the
Spirit of Oneness after the Conference

 

The success of the 47th AIO Conference can be
attributed to the true spirit of oneness displayed by the LOC though instilled
through the standards set forth by AIO for its events.

 

Given the abilities, knowledge and skills of the
insurance professionals in Nigeria across different arms of the insurance
industry namely underwriting, broking, loss adjusting and other related
services, only the decision and commitment to work together could enable
visionary leadership, which was needed to make Nigeria the leader of the pack.

 

I am certain that if, for example, the issue of
recapitalization and claims payment were viewed with the same spirit towards
the gains that could be achieved rather than who would lose, the Nigerian
insurance industry would have been on its way to leading other insurance
markets in Africa.

 

2. Focus on Contributing
to the Larger African Economy

 

In his address to the Conference, Nigeria’s President
Buhari called on the insurance industry to leverage on diversification and
contribute to the economic development of Nigeria and Africa. Though this might
not have sounded unfamiliar, it did present the opportunity for the insurance
industry to make the move rather than keep calling on the government to support
it in terms of patronage and bailout especially in the face of huge claims
payouts during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The opportunity was even made stronger considering
that a Nigerian professional, Mr. Tope Smart, Group Managing Director and CEO
of NEM Insurance Plc and Immediate Past Chairman of Nigeria Insurers
Association (NIA) took the stead as President of AIO for the next one year.

 

Yes, he is leading other African Insurance
Professionals to contribute to the rebuilding process of the economy in the
post COVID-19 era and would be expected to exploit the opportunity to put
Nigeria ahead.

 

Coming at a time that Africa found its competitive
edge through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agenda, Mr. Smart
only needs to lead his colleagues to the headquarters of AfCFTA in Accra with
the communique from the Conference and the stage will be set for Nigeria’s
historic take over of the leadership of the insurance industry in Africa.

 

It is also important to mention that if Mr. Smart
desires to lead AIO to the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Trade
Organization (WTO) where Dr. Akinwummi Adesina and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hold
sway, the contribution of the insurance industry in Africa will be pronounced
and the leadership of Nigeria will be doubtless.

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3. Promote Inclusiveness

 

The origin of insurance was inclusiveness and should
continue to be the philosophy by which it is studied, sold and promoted.

 

Insurance also remains the one non-traditional source
of finance and wealth for the larger population, which Africans need in the
fight to overcome poverty.

 

The Nigerian insurance industry should get involved in
deliberately fighting poverty in Nigeria with insurance offerings that improve
lives as a way of helping rebuild our economy post COVID-19.

 

We have the technology now in Nigeria as evident in
payment and lending solutions and applications, which insurance can leverage on
to reach the active low income amongst us and migrate them to the higher level
above the poverty line.

 

Microinsurance is the tool and we have had it for some
time but only need to seek collaborations to make it the game changer it is for
deepening insurance penetration. There is also Takaful that is already helping
to increase awareness while health insurance, thanks to the Universal Health
Coverage 2030 agenda, has gained more momentum as we win the battle against
COVID-19 pandemic.

 

There are lessons the regulators, educators and
operators in Nigeria can learn from other African countries to prime Nigeria
into a true leadership position in terms of insurance in Africa beyond the
Conference.

 

Leading the rest of African insurance market is not
strange to Nigeria as we have previously produced the best insurance brains,
gurus and doyens who dominated with their brands.

 

In this year of Nigeria’s leadership of AIO, we will
remember all those who contributed to make this season possible and hope that
our current contributions will advance the African market in years to come.

 

In the limit, the role we give our young professionals
to play today will determine how well and how long Nigeria will lead the
African insurance market.

 

Let us celebrate the Nigerianness that has brought us
this far and would keep us going farther.

 

About The Author 

Ekerete Olawoye Gam-Ikon, MNIM,
CPP, is a management consultant with a specialization in Strategy and
Insurance. You can contact him via e:mail 
ola[email protected] and mobile +234-806-648-1111 

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