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CognitiveTechnology Reshaping Africa’s Insurance Sector

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By Uzo Nwani

 

Underinsurance remains a feature of many African economies. With the African Development Bank(AfDB) revising its projected GDP growth rate for the continent to 3.7% from 4.2% by 2018, the region’s relatively low uptake of insurance is one key indicator of its underdevelopment. For folks in the technology space, the insurance sector’s micro and macro issues are often opportunities for technology adoption and utilization.

 

Technology adoption is however not the key challenge confronting Africa’s insurance sector. A more fundamental problem plaguing the growth of Africa’s multi-trillion-dollar insurance industry is the issue of trust.

 

Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist Femi Falana recently explained at an insurance colloquium that while most insurance companies in Nigeria are anxious to collect premiums, they are reluctant to pay claims. And when they agree to pay, the payment is deliberately delayed. “One account of such delays is when motorists and drivers fight on the roads to determine who would fix their damaged vehicles,” Falana explained.

 

In a recent interview with the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, Paul Norman of KPMG East Africa opines that without trust, the industry is as good as nonexistent:“There’s a trust deficit gap — people don’t buy insurance because they don’t trust the providers,” he says. “They don’t think the promise [that a claim will be paid] is going to be delivered. Claims are not paid quickly, fairly or correctly. It’s a huge pain point across the continent.”

 

While the adoption of advanced technologies like big data analytics, cloud and cognitive computing will certainly boost the operational performance and efficiency levels of insurance firms (and businesses generally), insurance industry practitioners and institutions must work harder to fix the sector’s trust issues, working in concert with technology firms who will support their market development plans with appropriate solutions and systems.

APA Insurance, a Kenyan insurer catering to both individuals and corporates, recently turned to IBM to optimize its claims processes. The insurance underwriter can now gain greater visibility into policies, premiums and loss ratios through IBM Analytics Solutions, ultimately improving its product offerings, service delivery and customers experience.

While IBM continues to evaluate APA’s adoption and integration of its business intelligence (BI) solutions, the bigger picture is that there is a pent-up demand for insurers and improved risk management services across sub-Sahara Africa. Technology could help unlock the sector, further contributing to the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP). The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently predicted that emerging markets and developing economies will be at the forefront of growth for 2017-18 at more than double the rate of advanced economies.

African insurers will no doubt increasingly use technology to rejig their business models, including as a tool to cope with changes in the markets and changes in regulation. Technology will also eradicate the industry’s traditional boundaries, allowing new entrants to compete with the established behemoths in the industry. And as markets mature, insurance practitioners will also have to come up with strategies to better manage risk and technologically savvy customers. To succeed, insurers will have to work faster, more efficiently and, above all, smarter.

 

The report of a study by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), “Insurance 2025: Reducing Risk in an Uncertain Future” reveals that two technological trends will have a high impact on the future of business across industries: the rise of cognitive computing, and the increasing potential for decentralization of systems and decision making.

 

If systems are decentralized, the question will be where the center of control will sit, and how fragmented the networks will be. For example, limitations imposed by privacy concerns, regulation, or liability could hamper the use of devices encourage the device autonomy and the centralization of control.

 

Cognitive computing refers to next-generation information systems designed to accelerate, enhance and take advantage of human expertise. These systems can learn large amounts of data, reason with purpose, and interact with humans naturally. Their ability to handle unstructured data and range across wide subject domains gives them opportunity to remake business processes. We believe these technologies will have reached maturity by 2025.

 

An IBM IBVinsurance survey in 2016 found that 79% of insurance company leaders believe technology will have a major impact on their organizations, and 71% said they have begun to use cognitive technologies. When combined with artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive systems can enable insurers to assess the risk of loaning to an individual to a high degree.

 

We believe that insurance companies should consider these four moves to succeed in the next decade:

 

1) Increase flexibility: Take out expenses and build in flexibility by moving core systems to a hybrid cloud that are available as-a-service, which enables experimentation and entry into new markets entry at low costs, on secure platforms. As products move to “as-a-service” models, turn legacy systems into components to help sustain cost competitiveness.

 

2) Develop partner ecosystems: Organizations in the insurance industry will need to collaborate to have the best data about consumers and the risks of loaning money to them. The goal is to cultivate partnerships and membership in ecosystems within the insurance industry. When using “as-a-service” products, an insurance company will need to cooperate with service partners to offer the complete package.

 

3) Improve predictive capabilities: Insurance companies will need to improve their speed of change by bringing together technology, business capabilities and product investment. They should use analytics, pattern recognition and data to chart progress, as well as understand customer behavior and risk parameters.

 

4) Embrace innovation: Leading innovators build an organization with a corporate culture and design processes that encourage innovation. Corporate structures can be made more flexible by streamlining internal innovation processes, with centralized funding and investment models.

 

Embracing innovation will build skill with component technologies of whichever future scenario wins, providing the capabilities necessary to prosper in changing conditions. And building agile development and business service composition skills will keep your organization nimble enough to capitalize on market changes.

 

As African economies expand and evolve, C-suite executives in Africa’s insurance sector will need to look towards the future, embracing cloud and cognitive systems to maintain their organization’s competitive advantage. By using this holistic approach, they can continue to transform their business even as their industry is restructuring all around them.


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

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AfDB Appoints Dr Babatunde Samson Omotosho as Director of Statistics Department

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African Development Bank has appointed Dr Babatunde Samson Omotosho, an economist and statistician, as Director of the Statistics Department, effective June 16, 2024.

Dr Babatunde Samson Omotosho

Dr Omotosho, a Nigerian national, has more than 21 years experience in developing data strategies to align with the strategic objectives of organisations. He also brings expertise in data compilation, data analytics, macroeconomic research, and policy analysis.

Omotosho previously served as Director of Research and Statistics at the West African Monetary Agency (WAMA) in Sierra Leone, where he was seconded from the Central Bank of Nigeria. At WAMA, he provided advice on monetary and economic integration within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Prior to that he held various positions within the Statistics and Research Departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

As an Assistant Director in the Statistics Department, he led the data analytics team and managed the Central Bank’s strategic initiatives on big data and data analytics. He oversaw projects aimed at enhancing data analytics capabilities for policymaking, automating surveys and statistical systems, improving data sharing infrastructure and developing social media listening tools. His leadership fostered a culture of data analytics within the Central Bank, driving innovation and efficiency in operational and policy processes.

Dr Omotosho holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom (2021); a master’s degree in Applied Statistics and Datamining from the University of St Andrews, United Kingdom (2011); a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Benin, Nigeria (2008); and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria (2000).

He has contributed extensively to academic literature, with publications in reputable journals, including the Journal of Economic Dynamics & Control, Journal of International Money & Finance, Macroeconomic & Finance in Emerging Market Economies, and the Central Bank of Nigeria Journal of Applied Statistics. His research covers big data, econometrics, monetary and fiscal policy interactions, business cycle drivers, and the macroeconomic implications of resource shocks for small open, emerging economies.

Omotosho is a member of the Nigerian Statistical Association, the International Association for Official Statistics, and the Royal Statistical Society.

Commenting on his appointment, he said, “I am grateful to President Adesina for this appointment, and I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the continued success and growth of the African Development Bank Group, an institution that plays such a pivotal role in the economic and social development of our beloved continent, Africa. I am fully committed to fulfilling the responsibilities of the position while collaborating effectively with the Bank’s senior leadership team, colleagues, and other strategic partners.”

Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, commented: “I am pleased to appoint Dr Babatunde Samson Omotosho, a respected statistician, as Director of the Statistics Department. Dr Omotosho brings to this role an impressive track record in statistics, economics, and data analytics. He will support the Bank in building a robust data ecosystem to achieve our strategic objectives and sustain our long-term development goals.”


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ATII Awards Scholarship to Students

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A knowledge transfer and technology innovation hub, African Technology and Innovation Institutes (ATII) has awarded scholarships to ten pupils from Bridge International Academy, Lagos.

Through its Junior Scholars Program in partnership with Lumina Educational and Empowerment Foundation (Lumina), the scholarship will meet the educational needs of the benefitting pupils through their primary education, which is extendable to their university education.

The Junior Scholars Program is an offshoot of  ATII’s  Innovation, Leaders, Fellowship and Scholars Program that aims to empower and cater to the welfare of students aged 3-12 years from underprivileged and low-income communities by partnering with other organisations to provide scholarships for these rough diamonds.

In addition to the scholarship, ATII also provides STEM-based back-to-school kits and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) materials to spark their desire for education and to contribute to their communities in STEM-related fields.

In her congratulatory message, the Founder of ATII,  Prof. Rose-Margaret Ekeng-Itua represented by Mr Sunday Awolowo, ATII’s Programs Manager, praised the students for their “outstanding academic excellence” and their “resolve to continue to improve in their academic pursuits, especially in the STEM fields.”

“We hope that the scholarships will continue to encourage you to do great work to pursue STEM. We hope one day in the future you all will be inspired to be an Engineer, a technologist, a mathematician or scientist,” Prof. Ekeng-Itua said.

The ATII Junior Scholars Program is designed to encourage and support students who are interested in pursuing careers in these fields.

Mrs Ezinne Tochie-Asogwa, Manager of Academics at Bridge International Academy, expressed her appreciation to ATII for the generous gesture.

“On behalf of the management and staff of Bridge International Academy, we appreciate the kind gesture of ATII.

ATII is passionate about the next generation of leaders and individuals who will change the world, pursuing its mission to promote African and Indigenous Technologies, while supporting human capital development in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The ATII scholarships will provide financial assistance to the students as they continue their education in STEM fields. The program will also provide mentorship and support from ATII professionals.

 


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CBN, FintechNGR Chart the Way Forward to Enhance Nigeria’s Fintech Ecosystem

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In light of recent developments aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s fintech sector, Ade Bajomo, President of FintechNGR, led a team from the Association’s Governing Council in an engagement with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to chart the way forward.

Receiving the team at the CBN headquarters in Abuja, Philip Ikeazor, Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, commended FintechNGR’s active advocacy efforts that have significantly improved the fintech ecosystem.

The Central Bank emphasized the need for the Association to work closely with stakeholders to operate within regulatory provisions, facilitate compliance, and establish robust risk management frameworks and governance structures.

Mr. Ikeazor stated, “The Central Bank understands the critical roles of fintechs in driving financial inclusion to the last mile. Our efforts are geared towards helping fintechs become more attractive to investors and achieve greater success.”

During the meeting, Ade Bajomo noted that while stakeholders strive to comply with regulatory requirements, they sometimes face challenges beyond their control.

“The common understanding within our ecosystem is that compliance makes the environment safer for all to innovate, scale, and collaborate. FintechNGR will ensure the co-creation of a support structure with the CBN to enhance compliance.”

Some of the initiatives the regulators plan to pursue with the ecosystem include making the 2024 Nigeria Fintech Week more impactful, enriching the activities of the Regulators Forum, organizing fintech learning series for various stakeholders, and exploring self-regulation status for FintechNGR to foster closer relationships with regulators.

FintechNGR remains committed to working with all regulators to better position the ecosystem to be more inclusive and impactful.

 


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