The insurance industry’s wider digital transformation, where insurtech and fintech as a whole has been playing a strong part in that, can be seen across the world such as in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. But can more be done?
Home to over 1.7 billion people, the MEA region represents a significant population. However, in terms of insurance, much of the region is still uninsured. According to Atlas, the insurance premiums market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) stood at $57 billion in 2018. For example, in the affluent Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, according to research from management consulting firm Kearney, it is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets, which registered growth of nearly 7 per cent each year in gross written premiums over the previous few years. The GCC countries collectively (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman) in the MENA region accounted for less than half (44.3 per cent) of the region’s premium market share. As highlighted in previous writings as well as the Fintech Times’s Fintech Middle East and Africa 2021 Report, much of the Middle East as a whole still is insured, in particular with less affluent regions specifically beyond the GCC region.
In Africa, the rate of uninsured is even lower. For instance, countries such as Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people and being the largest country in the continent by population, has a penetration insurance rate of merely 0.4 per cent. A different trajectory generally in that rule in particular is South Africa, where the nation has one of the world’s highest penetration rates of insurance, accounting for an estimated 80 per cent of the continent’s total gross premiums.
Saying this, MEA has a combination of large global insurance brands offering various products and services across the region such as Metlife, Zurich, AXA, Cigna, Munich RE, Aetna, Bupa – to name a few. MEA also has a wide range of its own native-born and headquartered insurance firms such as Turkey’s ERGO Sigorta A.Ş, Insurance Association of Turkey, and Anadolu Hayat Emeklilik, Saudi Arabia’s Walaa, Salama, Malath and Al Rajihi Takaful, Israel’s Harel Insurance Investments & Finance Services, Migdal Holdings, Clal Insurance Enteprises Holdings Ltd, and Menora Mivtachim, the UAE’s Daman Health, Orient Insurance, Oman Insurance Co, and Takaful Emarat, Egypt’s Misr Insurance, South Africa’s Old Mutual, Liberty Holdings, Momentum Metropolitan Life Assurers, and Discovery Health, Qatar’s Qatar Insurance Company, Bahrain’s Bahrain Kuwait Insurance, Morocco’s RMA and Wafa Assurance and Kuwait’s Gulf Insurance Group – to name a few. The following showcases the top 15 insurance companies in the Middle East and Africa:
Adaption coming into force – the road to digital transformation
Digital transformation is playing a large part of the MEA region and this is impacting the insurance industry. To note, this has resulted in the rise of insurtech and wider fintech solutions partnering with the insurance industry – both to digitalise the current landscape and to future gain clients who many in MEA remain to be uninsured.
In MENA, according to research from data platform based in the Middle East, MAGNiTT, investigated that $26 million was ploughed into MENA-based insurtech startups in 2019 – the highest amount in any year in recorded history. To compare globally as a whole, global investment in insurtech reached an emphatic record during H1, 2021, as half-year funding of $7.4 billion exceeded full-year investment in 2020, and in every other year, according to a Quarterly InsurTech Briefing from Willis Towers Watson.
Despite MEA still smaller compared to the global stage, there have been remarkable and noticeable partnerships growing that occurred this year. Examples of partnerships are slowly abounding but include the following. In the Middle East they are:
- Insurance, banks and payments in the UAE: Dubai National Insurance & Reinsurancehas partnered with Magnati, which is a subsidiary of First Abu Dhabi Bank to support customers with a payment gateway. The product is offered in collaboration with UAE digital wallet NIR customers now have payment channels including payit, QR code payment, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Google Pay.
- Amazon meets insurance in MENA – Amazon Payment Services (APS), the MENA-based payment processing services provider, developed a partnership with Swiss Zurich International Life Limited to offer digital payments for its customers in the Middle East through the utilisation of Zurich’s digital customer onboarding platform ZurichPro.
Meantime, insurance and wider fintech partnerships in Africa include:
- Telecommunications and fintech – The largest mobile phone network provider in South Africa, MTN, forged a partnership with UK-based fintech Sanlam to offer the telco’s subscribers low cost insurance products. To note, MTN was formerly branded as M-Cell, and operates across Africa and Asia with its headquarters in Johannesburg.
- More telco and fintech – AAR Insurance partnered with telco Safaricom to roll out new technology infrastructure based on AWS as part of its goal to be a full digital insurance company.
As the region as a whole is implementing its wider digital transformation across various milestones on the implementation chart, there are noticeable future stars where MEA solutions in both insurtech and wider fintech that can help further help the region accelerate its ambitions. They include recent success stories and announcements such as:
- South Africa’s Naked raising $11 million in a Naspers-led round. Existing investors Yellowwoods and Hollard also participated in the funding round.
- Dubai, UAE based Souqalmal, launching MoneyDoctor, a financial education program whereby companies in the country can provide to their employees helping with financial management and education.
- Tel Aviv and Israel and The Startup Nation – As highlighted with my previous work, Israel has generally an advanced wider tech ecosystem which includes insurtech. The Startup Nation has, specifically within insurtech, around 100 insurtechs that include the likes of Israeli-founded Lemonade and Hippo – to name a few.
Despite the relatively low penetration of insurance in MEA as a whole, there is potential to further develop the market – both digitalise the offering and further grow the consumer market. Time will tell but with growing partnerships where both insurtech and wider fintech as a whole, there appears to be a strong promising start in MEA.