Image Source: The Future of Commerce

Africa has long grappled with the challenge of financial exclusion, leaving millions marginalised from accessing basic banking and insurance products.  14 million households and individuals are pushed into poverty every year due to out-of-pocket health expenditures or catastrophic health expenses from a lack of health insurance, especially during emergencies. Africans also spend over a tenth of their earnings on healthcare payments every year. These occurrences, while not directly stemming from financial exclusion, deepen the financial divide and compound the challenge.

Insurance, a safety net against risks and a tool to increase financial resiliency remain underutilised on the continent. In most African markets, insurance penetration is below the two per cent mark. Accessing insurance has been daunting for many Africans due to factors such as high premiums, complex policies, and limited accessibility, especially for the informal sector. 

From unpredictable market fluctuations and natural disasters to personal accidents and health emergencies, the absence of insurance leaves millions exposed to financial ruin at the slightest of setbacks. For those operating on razor-thin profit margins, the impact of such risks can be devastating, pushing families into poverty and stifling economic growth.

In light of this, embedded insurance has emerged as the key to addressing this vulnerability by integrating insurance seamlessly into the financial transactions and activities of the informal market.

Embedding insurance within lending products, savings schemes, and payment platforms tailored to the needs of the informal sector, enables individuals and businesses to gain access to a safety net that protects against a range of risks. 

Whether it be crop insurance for smallholder farmers, micro-health insurance for street vendors, or asset protection for artisans, embedded insurance offers tailored solutions that cater to the unique needs of the informal market. “Africa is not lacking in insurance, they are not just focused on the informal market,” said Ted Pantone, CEO of Turaco, at a recent edition of TechCabal Live in partnership with Turaco and One Acre Fund on Friday, February 23, 2024.

Another significant contribution of embedded insurance is its ability to mitigate risks for both lenders and borrowers. In Africa, economic volatility is prevalent, lenders often face uncertainty in extending credit to underserved populations. Embedded insurance offers a solution by providing lenders, microfinance institutions, and asset-based financing companies with a safety net against default risks, thereby encouraging them to offer loans to individuals and businesses who were previously deemed too risky. This not only expands access to credit but also empowers entrepreneurs and small businesses to invest in their futures, fostering economic growth and stability.

Moreover, embedded insurance enhances the resilience of borrowers by protecting them against unforeseen events that could derail their financial progress. Whether it be crop failure for farmers, illness for individuals, or accidents for entrepreneurs, these unexpected challenges can push vulnerable populations deeper into poverty. However, with embedded insurance, borrowers have a shield against such adversities, ensuring they can weather financial storms without falling into a cycle of debt or destitution. A point emphasised by Hephzibah Chepng’eno, Product Strategy Director, One Acre Fund. “Having affordable insurance is a path to building resilience, growing assets, and improving the financial ability of customers to repay loans.”

Furthermore, embedded insurance fosters financial literacy and inclusion by simplifying the insurance process and promoting greater awareness among borrowers. By embedding insurance seamlessly into lending platforms, borrowers are exposed to insurance products and their benefits, demystifying the often-complex world of insurance. This not only encourages uptake but also equips individuals with the knowledge and tools to make informed financial decisions, empowering them to protect themselves and their families against risks. Borrowers no longer have to deal with the complex process of dealing directly with insurance companies. 

“Insurance languages are mostly complicated and complex for the layman to understand. People need to understand how insurance works easily,” said Pantone on the improvement of financial services accessibility as a result of embedded insurance.

Prominent innovators have taken on the task of comprehending the financial challenges and creating resilience for the informal market as we see in the case of embedded insurance and lending solutions for farmers in East Africa. However, for embedded insurance in lending to flourish in Africa, there is a need for concerted efforts from various stakeholders to create an enabling regulatory environment that fosters innovation while safeguarding consumers’ interests.

This article is part of the TechCabal Live series brought to you by TechCabal in partnership with Turaco and One Acre Fund. Turaco seeks to provide inclusive insurance solutions for emerging markets while One Acre Fund supplies smallholder farmers with everything they need to grow their way out of poverty. 

Victoria Olaonipekun Junior Projects/Events Associate

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