Allianz targets growth in East Africa

In October German insurance giant Allianz established a partnership with Jubilee Holdings of Kenya in a deal that will enable both companies to tap the East African region’s high potential for growth.


Image : Allianz

Months before Covid-19 forced Kenya into lockdown, Mombasa seamstress Blessing Kiboi purchased an insurance policy for the first time. Kiboi now has access to medical care and disability cover, having previously counted on her church for financial and medical support when sick. 

Microinsurance – with premiums starting at around $1.30 per month – is gaining traction as part of the growth of a wider Kenyan insurance industry serving everyday customers and major corporate clients. As competition bubbles up and disruptive technology is deployed, bringing structure to the existing informal market, one of the world’s biggest insurance firms has announced a major regional partnership.    

In October, German insurance giant Allianz signed an agreement to establish a strategic partnership with Nairobi-based Jubilee Holdings Limited (JHL), East Africa’s largest insurance group. The deal covers the general insurance business – also known as the property and casualty (P&C) insurance segment – with Allianz acquiring controlling stakes for $100m in Jubilee’s businesses in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as the short-term insurance segments in Burundi and Mauritius. 

Allianz, who first sold insurance in Africa in 1912, currently serve more than 100m retail and corporate customers in more than 70 countries, and realised an operating profit of $14bn in 2019. 

East Africa’s economies have proven resilient during Covid, and the insurance market is forecast to expand with population growth expected to double by 2050. Combined with rapid smartphone and mobile money penetration, a ripening digital environment has prompted the firm to cast its net further.  

“Allianz has been in Africa for a long time, but we’ve upped our game,” says Coenraad Vrolijk, regional CEO for Allianz in Africa. “The Jubilee transaction is part of a sequence of events we started in 2015 after we said, ‘We’re in the window right now to invest in Africa,’ as it’s open and it will probably stay open for another decade. At Allianz globally we invest a lot in digital technology and we can plug and play that into our African business.” 

Allianz’s venture deeper into East Africa comes after it slimmed down operations in West Africa due to unfavourable regulatory frameworks hampering growth in its Francophone subsidiaries. Allianz retains a strong foothold in Morocco, Ghana and Nigeria, where it acquired 99.3% of Nigerian insurer Ensure Insurance in 2018, and invested $96.6m in digital microinsurer BIMA, which operates in numerous markets. 

Harmonisation and digitalisation 

With its pivot eastwards, Nandini Wilcke, Allianz Africa’s regional director for mergers, acquisitions and transformation, says the deal will mean increased digitalisation for the joint venture and growth in big data and analytics. 

The region has low insurance penetration, with data suggesting 20% of individual Kenyans have some form of insurance coverage. The formal sector accounts for just 17% of Kenya’s population and traditional insurance schemes are often based on employment, meaning insurers can struggle to penetrate the market.

But East Africa’s economies are being driven by oil and gas discoveries, infrastructure investments and increased consumption – growth that requires increasing P&C underwriting expertise, capital, and capacity to effectively manage risks. 

“We have been building digital assets in our core insurance platform and rolling it out throughout our operating entities,” says Wilke. “If you’re a Tesla and you come to Allianz for an insurance offer you don’t want to talk to six different companies, across six different markets. You don’t want to get six different products with six different sets of terms and conditions, so harmonisation and digitalisation is key to improving our efficiency, but it’s also the key to serving our customers and meeting them where they are.”  

Big data and analytics can be used for product development and marketing in insurance and other sectors. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence can aid voice recognition to provide customers with round-the-clock customer service and medical advice, and detect and analyse emotions – useful for insurers handling fraudulent cases. 

The deal will allow Jubilee to retain a significant minority stake in the company and control of its life, pensions and medical insurance operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The company says it is in a position to offer advanced products with an expanded range, alongside access to Allianz’s underwriting expertise and the implementation of international best practices. 

JHL serviced gross written premiums of $353m and saw a pre-tax profit of $46m in 2019. Chairman Nizar Juma says the deal gives it a chance to expand its footprint on the continent. “Our desire to acquire other companies will not stop or slow down. If anything, our acquisition strength will be increasing from this transaction,” Juma told journalists. 

Increasing penetration rates

Kenya’s insurance market is still small relative to those of more developed countries. Total insurance penetration (the standard indicator of market development, based on total insurance premiums as a percentage of GDP) averaged 9.6% in advanced markets in 2019 and reached nearly 20% in Taiwan. In Kenya, total penetration dipped to 2.43%. 

Product underpricing, sluggish innovation, and growing risks from climate change and fraud have hampered growth. The impact of Covid-19 could further squeeze margins in 2021, yet analysts say the Allianz-Jubilee partnership represents the future trajectory of the industry. 

“Allianz will bring their technology, their flair, and ways of growing a business, but they’re cognisant of the fact that they need to have a partner who is aware of the intricacies of doing business and insurance in the region,” says Rebecca Muriuki, insurance industry leader at Deloitte East Africa. 

New capital adequacy rules came into effect in Kenya in 2018, and Muriuki predicts more companies will have to merge or be taken over if they want to survive. “We’ll see changes in terms of the products they’ll be bringing to eventually increase penetration rates in the region, and it will also accelerate the pace at which insurers need to transform and reimagine their operating model,” she says. 

Establishing an insurance culture depends on reassuring customers that they’ll receive payouts for legitimate claims. Raising the levels of solvency requirements for operators will create a system that benefits the population, says Vrolijk, while making sure there are appropriate levels of reinsurance – the practice whereby insurers transfer portions of their risk portfolios to other parties to reduce their losses in the event of having to pay out large claims. 

“It’s all part of finally having an insurance system that benefits the population so that when there is a large claim, or when inevitably we’re going to have some natural catastrophes in Africa, the insurance industry must be able to pay. And people know Allianz pays.” 

The insurance industry owes its durability and survival to tested and proven methods of doing business. In time new premiums will be introduced for consumers who want faster claims, and made available via mobile money services, says Deloitte’s Muriuki.  

As the buzz about the sector gathers steam, a generation of consumers with more insurable assets living longer lives will be at the heart of Allianz’s expansion strategy on the continent. 

“We want our brand recognition to grow in Africa, and for us strategically, it makes a lot of sense to hitch our star together with Jubilee,” says Wilcke.

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