Can new technologies power insurance penetration in Nigeria?

By Ignatius Annor

Insurance penetration in Nigeria remains at less than 1%. According to official data, the penetration rate of the sector which plunged into deep recession in 2020 stands at 0.5 %.

It’s a low rate compared to 13.4 % in South Africa. But the average for insurance penetration in Africa remains generally low.

Macroeconomics and inefficiencies in the insurance sector has reportedly played a role in the low inclusion and penetration rate on the continent.

For instance, analysts say claims processes are still largely paper-based, and exorbitant, time consuming and ineffective.

Thus calls for a full digitally-driven insurance market in Africa continue to grow. This is viewed as a sure way to create financial inclusion and bring quality financial services to the public.

One of such companies working to bring this into fruition is Curacel. The insurance technology platform says it is leveraging on artificial intelligence to power claims processing and fraud management in Africa.

Already, the firm works with some of the biggest insurers in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda.

CEO and Co-Founder at Curacel Henry Mascot tells Business Africa’s Ignatius Annor that: ‘’On the continent, we wouldn’t see a big adoption of Artificial Intelligence in the beginning. Because again we need to create some level of employment. So automation wouldn’t be the first thing, but digitization.’’

Rwanda’s mushroom booming business

In the southern province of Rwanda’s Nyanza district, a cooperative of widows is using mushroom agribusiness to lift women out of poverty. Correspondent Diana Iriza reports that the venture is encouraging a savings culture among the women.

The saving group which started with only 12 women in 1995 is currently an association that has turned into an agribusiness cooperative with 30 members so far.

Members are reaping big from mushroom growing which has changed their livelihoods, Iriza said.

They learned how to prepare their own mushroom spores of which they invest 400 Rwandan Franc after designing a project sponsored by Action Aid Rwanda.

”Initially we got together as a group with the intention to save money. We used to save about 100 Rwf per week, but we later on decided to form a cooperative. We decided to grow mushrooms because it is not a very hectic job, it can be carried out on a very small piece of land and it generates a lot of produce. In a month we earn about 40,000 Rwf ($41), when we sell mushroom spores, we sell each at 1000 Rwf ($1)”, said Cooperative Coordinator, Charlotte Mukamariya.

The women in the cooperative say not only has mushroom growing improved their standards of living, but it has also improved malnutrition in their village.

Egypt’s souvenir market

And, it used to be one of Egypt’s successful businesses. With tourists rushing to see the sights, souvenir-makers working in the shadow of Giza’s Pyramids had clients all year round.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism crashed in the country, and now their livelihoods are at risk.

“It is very quiet these days compared to the past. I used to have 15 workers in my workshop. I was producing statues in all sizes, but after tourism declined, I turned to molding small and simple souvenirs. Now, I have 5 workers focusing only on making small and medium-sized gifts”, said Eid Yousri, an artisan and owner of a workshop that manufactures Pharaonic figurines.

Egypt’s souvenir workers behind the famous Pyramids, Tutankhamun masks, Nefertiti busts have also suffered from cheaper replicas, when their market was flooded with cheap Chinese imports.

But Egyptian authorities, took action to protect its home-grown crafts.

“Egyptian products are much stronger when it comes to their finish and the material used compared to Chinese ones which can change with time”, said Sameh Helal, owner of a souvenir shop in Khan El-Khalili.

For Hisham Sharawi, a retired general who supervises 50 workers at Konouz factory, “Decisions were made by the relevant Egyptian ministers to prohibit the import of some goods from China, whether they were replicas or copies of Egyptian antiquities.”

Sculptors and fine artists now hope that with tourists coming back later in the year, their business will bounce-back to pre-pandemic levels.