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9 Questions in 9 Minutes: How Technology Is Driving Greater Insurance Penetration in Africa

Although Africa’s insurance industry remains a billion-dollar sector, the industry continues to battle with low penetration rates. The continent is home to 17% of the global population, yet a mere 1% of worldwide insured losses originate from the African region.  

Henry Mascot, CEO and co-founder, Curacel
Henry Mascot, CEO and co-founder, Curacel

To better understand why exactly such a gap remains and how potentially it could be closed, we sat down for an insightful conversation with Henry Mascot, the CEO and co-founder of Curacel. But who exactly are Curacel, and how are they utilising the latest fintech and AI technology to deliver quality insurance to Africa? Dip into our interview below:

Henry, can you tell me more about Curacel?

Curacel is an insurance technology platform that uses artificial intelligence to power claims processing and fraud management in Africa.

We started as an electronic health information management system for healthcare providers, with a web application that helped hospitals transform their paper records into digital form. The team offered this solution for a while, but we quickly found out that there were more pressing cashflow issues facing healthcare providers and digitisation just was not as much of a priority. When we realised this, we pivoted from being an information management platform to an intelligent software platform to transform how the entire industry operates and address the cashflow issues affecting healthcare providers.

What makes Curacel unique?

Insurtech in Africa is relatively new, so even though most startups in the space are trying to tackle the central issue of insurance penetration and inclusion across the continent, we are all taking different approaches. At Curacel, we have chosen claims process and management as the main issue we want to address using artificial intelligence.

What was the inspiration behind Curacel – what problem were you trying to solve?

The low insurance penetration rate across the continent is a cause for concern. It implies that there is a huge protection gap, leaving households and businesses vulnerable to shocks triggered by unforeseen emergencies. We believe that there are many inefficiencies in the ecosystem that contribute to this situation and we are building technology solutions to address them. By helping insurers to cut costs, make claims processes more efficient and reduce fraud, waste, and abuse, we believe we can make it easier to safeguard lives and livelihoods across the continent, as well as increase the level of insurance penetration.

What is the current insurance market like in Africa? And how does this differ from the rest of the world?

Levels of insurance penetration in Africa are half the world average measured as a percentage of GDP, and premiums per capita are 11-fold lower than the world average. The insurance industry in Africa also represents less than 1% of insured catastrophe losses worldwide, although it’s home to almost 17% of the global population.

What plays a role in the low insurance inclusion in Africa?

A combination of culture, macroeconomics, and inefficiency in the insurance industry has played a role in the low inclusion and penetration across the continent. On the inefficiency matter in particular, the fact that the claims process is still largely paper-based means it is unnecessarily time-consuming, expensive, and ineffective. There is also an issue with product-market fit as many Insurance companies have typically focussed on high-income earners and have not really channeled too much effort towards low-income earners and informal workers that make up the majority of Africa’s workforce.

However, we are seeing an emergence of a wider range of products and more embedded insurance offerings that are providing opportunities to exponentially increase insurance access and affordability for consumers, while creating new and high-margin products for policy issuers.

What are the challenges of driving greater insurance inclusion across the continent?

One of the biggest challenges is that many people have lived for so long without insurance and it can be easy to assume that insurance is not needed. However, when you consider the impact of unforeseen incidents and health emergencies on people’s finances, it is essential that we continue to focus on driving greater insurance inclusion.

Another challenge is that as much as there can be various overlaps and similarities, no two regions are ever the same. We always have to make sure our approach and the solutions we are delivering are relevant to the needs of the specific region and sector we are trying to serve.

There are also issues with infrastructure and regulation. In many markets, regulation can change overnight without warning, making plans redundant and forcing many to completely overhaul their business model.

How are you using technology to change the way insurance is delivered?

Our main value proposition is that we use technology to enable greater speed and accuracy in the claims process for Insurance companies. By digitising the claims process and applying artificial intelligence, we enable insurers to confidently automate and settle a greater number of claims, only requiring human involvement for quality assessment. So far, we have processed more than 700,000 claims and helped insurers to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse by up to 25%.

What are the opportunities for using AI and other technology for insurance?

According to KPMG, insurers around the world are turning to AI to cut costs, boost sales and improve service efficiency. From helping predict customer needs to detecting fraud in real-time and predicting claims values, AI is powering insurers all along the insurance value chain.

What does the future hold for the insurance industry, are we likely to see a greater AI uptake?

The future of Africa’s insurance sector is bright. Various organisations are trying to address various issues in the insurance ecosystem, which is driving a lot of disruption. Innovative partnerships between insurers and tech companies like ourselves are becoming the norm and we expect this trend to accelerate over the next few years. Some reports have even suggested that African countries may even leapfrog more developed markets.


  • Tyler is a fintech journalist with specific interests in online banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

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