Insurance in Kenya dates as far back as 1930 when the first insurance company, Pioneer Assurance was founded. It wasn’t until 2015 that Kenya’s first set of Insurtech startups began to appear. Today, Kenya’s insurance companies are re-imagining how they provide the service to their target market especially low-income earners and rural dwellers.
There are about 55 traditional insurance companies in Kenya supervised by the Insurance Regulatory Authority of Kenya. One of the challenges these companies face is how to serve the low income market. Almost half of the Kenyan population lives below the poverty line.
There’s also a distrust for traditional insurance companies. Quite a number of people believe they short change consumers when paying out claims. This is one of the reasons why insurance penetration is currently at 2.73% of GDP. For context, the global average is 6.28%. Another reason for the low insurance penetration is the poor savings culture and the general non-challant attitude to insurance. There’s a lot of work to done to educate Kenyan consumers about the importance of insurance.
So the question traditional insurance companies like Jubilee Insurance, Co-operative Insurance and ICEA Lion Group currently have to answer is “How do we increase access to affordable and transparent insurance services? There’s already some progress with providing answers to this question but it’s still very slow owing to the way traditional companies are set up. A good example of this progress is Jubilee Insurance which has created an award-winning Facebook bot called Julie. Julie answers questions from insurance consumers and can also provide them quotations.
One of the startups leading the insurtech charge in Kenya is InsureAfrika. It is an insurance comparison website attempting to solve the problem of access. The startup offers consumers a range of options for car, health and travel insurance. It aggregates the different insurance companies and their offerings, essentially providing a bird’s view of the options available to consumers at a glance.
There’s also Bluewave Insurance a startup tackling the affordability bit traditional companies have not really provided an answer to. In partnership with Jubilee Insurance, it has created a mobile microinsurance product called Imarishi Jamii. The service can be accessed using a USSD code and it is integrated with Safaricom’s MPesa. Consumers can get cover for health, death and disability. The insurance cover is available to consumers for as low as 20 Kenyan Shillings (20 cents) weekly.
Then there’s WazInsure, a cloud-based digital insurance manager created by GrassRoots Bima, a Nairobi-based insurtech company. This solution is taking on the transparency bit of the equation. The platform helps insurance companies easily communicate with their distribution agents and clients. It covers the whole value chain including onboarding a consumer, distribution, policy administration, claim administration and policy renewal. Another similar startup is Kakbima which launched in 2017. The SaaS digital insurance startup caters to insurers, micro-insurers and agents.
Insurtech in Kenya has been slow to take off but there’s an uptick in innovative insurance solutions & platforms from Julie to Kakbima. Still, there needs to be hubs and funding focused on improving access to insurance for Kenyans. Traditional insurance companies need to work with the existing (active) startup community in Kenya to develop innovation focused on insurance service delivery. In the absence of this there will be very low incentives for people to create the required solution to existing problems of access, affordability and education. This will then mean that insurance penetration will continue to be very low. It will be interesting to take another look at the insurtech space again in the coming year given Kenya’s very vibrant and quickly growing startup ecosystem.