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Getting ahead of the Curve: How the Regulatory Discourse on M-insurance is Changing

10.02.2017Catherine Denoon-Stevens, Senior Research Associate, Cenfri

First published by FSD Africa on 9 February 2017.

Nearly a year ago, we joined the A2ii in Abidjan to sit down with a roomful of regulators to discuss the challenges and imperatives CIMA faces in regulating mobile insurance at the CIMA-A2ii Workshop on Mobile Insurance Regulation. In the CIMA context, as with most countries in Africa, mobile network operators (MNOs) and the technical service providers (TSPs) that support them are emerging as key players in extending the reach of insurance. The discussions at the workshop focused on how insurance regulators can broaden their focus to include these MNOs and TSPs, as well as how to cooperate across different regulatory authorities.

A year on, these considerations remain as valid as ever, but we have come to realise that there is more at stake than m-insurance. Digital technology is changing the insurance landscape as we know it by paving the way for new players and business models with the potential to rapidly expand coverage. This is causing a re-think of how insurance is traditionally delivered. In addition, while m-insurance remains important, looking beyond m-insurance to the broader insurtech field is important to truly understand the opportunities technology provides to change the game in inclusive insurance and the associated risks.

Thus far, the insurtech debate has largely focused on developed country opportunities. But the tide is turning. My colleagues and I recently scanned the use of insurtech in the developing world to see what the potential is for addressing challenges in inclusive insurance. We found more than 90 initiatives in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa that fit the bill. What we saw is that the "insurtech effect" is happening in two ways.

Firstly, digital technology is a tool to make insurance as we know it better: it is being used as a backbone to various elements of the insurance life cycle, in an effort to streamline processes, bring down costs and enable scale. Examples include new ways of data collection, communication and analytics (think big data, smart analytics, telematics, sensor-technology, artificial intelligence - the list goes on), as well as leveraging mobile and online platforms for front and back-end digital functionality (such as roboadvisors, online broker platforms, mobile phone or online claims lodging and processing, to name a few!). It also allows for more tailored offerings: on-demand insurance initiatives are covering consumers for specific periods where they need that cover, for example for a bus ride, on vacation or when borrowing a friend's car for one evening, while advances in sensor technology mean that insurers can adapt cover and pricing based on usage, for example allowing customers to only pay car insurance for the kilometres they actually drive every month.

In all of the above, digital technology, including the application of blockchain for smart contracting and claims, makes the process seamless.

Secondly, digital technology is a game changer. In many ways, it is changing the way insurers do business, design and roll out their products, and, importantly, who is involved in the value chain. Peer to peer platforms (P2P) are a much-discussed example of these next generation models. They are designed to match parties seeking insurance with those willing to cover these risks. The revolutionary element lies in the ability to cover risks that insurers usually shy away from due to the lack of data to adequately price the risks - all now enabled by digital technology. But these platforms are often positioned in regulatory grey areas: if all the platform does is match people to pool their own risks, does it then need a licensed insurer involved? And if advice is provided by a robot powered by an algorithm, who is ultimately accountable? No wonder insurance supervisors are sitting up straight when you mention the word "tech". As Luc Noubussi, microinsurance specialist at the CIMA secretariat, said at the 12th International Microinsurance Conference in Sri Lanka late last year: "Technology can have a major impact on microinsurance, but change is happening fast and regulators need to understand it".

So, how do they remain on the front foot in light of all of this, what different functions, systems and players do they need to take into account and what are the risks arising? In short: how can they best facilitate innovation while protecting policyholders? Front of mind is how current regulatory and supervisory frameworks should accommodate new modalities, functions and roles - many of them outside the ambit of "traditional" insurance regulatory frameworks - and what cooperation is required between regulatory authorities to achieve that.

Two weeks from now we'll again be sitting down with regulators from sub-Saharan Africa for the Mobile Insurance Regulation conference hosted in Douala, Cameroon, from 23 - 24 February 2017 by the A2ii, the IAIS and the 14 state West-African insurance regulator, CIMA, supported by UK aid, FSD Africa and the Munich Re Foundation. This conference will delve into the opportunities that mobile insurance present and the considerations for regulators and supervisors in designing and implementing regulations to accommodate it. The imperative to find an m-insurance regulatory solution remains, but it is clear that the horizon has broadened: at play is the way that insurance is done across the product life cycle, who the players are in the value chain and, at times, the very definition of insurance.

As we suggested in an earlier blog, this could be microinsurance's Uber moment, but then regulators need to be on-board. We look forward to taking part in the discussions to see how supervisors plan to do just that.

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About the Author

Catherine Denoon-Stevens is a Senior Research Associate at Cenfri and has been part of the team since 2012. At Cenfri, her research has focused on building access to inclusive insurance markets, specifically the harmonisation of insurance regulation within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region; innovative financial services distribution models; and Making Access to Financial Services Possible (MAP) studies in Southern Africa and South Asia. In addition, she is part of the team that runs Cenfri's capacity building portfolio, coordinating open-enrolment and in-house executive education trainings in microinsurance and national payment systems.

Message from the MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

30.01.2017David Ashiagbor

Dear Readers,

Let me begin by wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2017, on behalf of all of us at the MFW4A Secretariat.

2016 was a rewarding year for MFW4A. We were proud to host the first Regional Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations (FCAS) in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, jointly with the African Development Bank, FSD Africa, and FIRST Initiative. The conference attracted some 140 policy makers, business leaders, academics and development partners from over 30 countries, to discuss the role of the financial sector in addressing fragility. The conference has already led to several initiatives by MFW4A and our partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia. We expect to build on this work in 2017.

Our support to the Conférence Interafricaine des Marchés d'Assurances (CIMA), the insurance regulator for francophone Africa, helped them to secure financing of EUR 2.5 million from the Agence Française de Développement. The funding will help to expand access to insurance in a region where penetration rates are less than 2% - well below the average for the continent. We worked closely with a number of our funding partners to help define their strategies in Digital Finance and Long Term Finance. These results are a clear demonstration of how the Partnership can directly support the operations of its membership.

With the support of our Supervisory Committee, we took steps to ensure the long term sustainability of the Partnership. The approval of a revised governance structure which fully integrates African financial sector stakeholders, public and private, was a first critical step. The ultimate objective is to expand membership and build a true partnership of all stakeholders in Africa's financial sector.

2017 will be a year of transition for the Partnership. It marks the end of MFW4A's third phase, and the beginning of its transformation into a new, more inclusive partnership, with an expanded membership. We will focus on revamping our value proposition to provide more focused, needs based services with the potential to directly impact our current and potential membership. In so doing, we hope to consolidate MFW4A's position as the leading platform for knowledge, advocacy and networking on financial sector development in Africa.

In closing, I must, on behalf of all of us at the MFW4A Secretariat, thank all our funding partners, stakeholders and supporters, for your constant support and encouragement over the years. We look forward to working together to strengthen our Partnership.

With our best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2017,

David Ashiagbor
MFW4A Partnership Coordinator

What we learned from the Conference on Financial Sector Development in African States Facing Fragile Situations? - Part 1

19.07.2016Amadou Sy, Director of Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

Last month, leaders from the public and private sectors and development partners gathered in Abidjan to discuss the links between fragility, resilience and financial sector development in Africa. This event, a joint initiative created by the African Development Bank, the Making Finance Work for Africa Partnership (MFW4A), FSD Africa, FIRST Initiative and the Initiative for Risk Mitigation in Africa (IRMA), also provided an opportunity to explore prospects for partnerships, innovative policies and private sector-led solutions to accelerate financial sector development in fragile situations in Africa.

In this first instalment of a six-part series, Amadou Sy, Senior Fellow and Director of the African Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution, looks at some of the major takeaways of the conference.

What is fragility?

Using a "harmonized definition," the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank classify states as being fragile when they exhibit poor governance or when they face an unstable security situation. For practical purposes, governance is measured by the quality of policies and institutions (states with a CPIA score less than or equal to 3.2) and insecurity is assessed by the presence of United Nations or regional peace keeping operations (PKO). In sub-Saharan Africa most fragile states are also low-income countries (LICs).

While the focus of the "harmonized definition" is on institutions and insecurity, participants stressed that fragility is a multi-faceted concept. In particular, fragility implies weak state institutions, poor implementation capacity, underdeveloped legal and financial infrastructure as well as low social cohesion and the exclusion of a large share of the population from financial and other services. The nature of fragility is also fluid and fragile states face situations ranging from violent conflicts to post-conflict economic recovery. The sources of fragility go beyond poor governance, low GDP per capita, and conflicts to include vulnerability to commodity shocks and other macroeconomic shocks, and exposure to the risk of pandemics.

The need to broaden the definition of fragility was further explored with reference to a quote from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia "fragility is not a category of states, but a risk inherent in the development process itself". Mr. Sibry Tapsoba, Director of the Transition Support Department of the AfDB argued for a multidimensional approach, which applies a fragility lens to (i) look beyond conflict and violence; (ii) focus on inclusiveness and institutions; (iii) recognize the importance of the private sector; and (iv) recognize the presence of asymmetries in resources, policy, and capacity.

Participants also insisted on the need to go beyond the negative connotation of fragility and recognize instead that fragile states are in transition and present opportunities for human and financial sector development.

What role for financial sector development (FSD) in fragile countries?

Empirical evidence points to the positive role that financial sector development (FSD) can play in fragile countries. There is a positive correlation between financial sector and economic growth, poverty reduction, and inequality reduction. FSD can be a driver of growth through increased job creation and it can help mitigate risks through increased savings, loans, and insurance.

A key finding stressed by Ms. Emiko Todoroki, Senior Financial Sector Specialist at FIRST Initiative is that fragile countries fare worst in all macro and financial metrics, except one: the share of adults with mobile accounts. Digital financial services are offering solutions in fragile states and there is a need to understand better their role.

In the same vein, Ms. Thea Anderson, Director at Mercy Corps argued for the need to focus in on micro issues such as the role of delivery channels, payments infrastructure, insurance, and blended finance (including impact investment), and Islamic finance. As she noted, FSD is relevant even in the more volatile security situations. For instance, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) can be viewed as a market segment and their financial inclusion can be kick-started with the use of functional identification (which also help comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements). Mr. Paul Musoke, Director of Change Management at FSD Africa also highlighted the role of markets and market building in a difficult context. He noted the need to look for scale, sustainability, and systemic change. As markets are dynamic and not predictable, taking a systems approach can be useful. Such an approach includes asking questions such as what factors are going to play a role in the future? Who is going to pay for infrastructure? What level of development should we target?

Lastly, Mr. Cedric Mousset, Lead Financial Sector Specialist, World Bank reminded the audience that governance remains a key dimension of fragility. Weak governance in fragile countries exposes them to a higher risk of non-compliance with regulations such as anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML-CFT) regulation. Improving governance, although it may be a slow process, is needed to support FSD. Measures to support political stability, improve the business and macroeconomic environment, ensure legal security, and build capacity remain important.

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You can download all the presentations on the conference website.

You can also view a selection of photos here.

For more information, please contact:

Pierre Valere Nketcha Nana
Email :p.nketcha-nana[at]afdb.org

Abdelkader Benbrahim
Email: a.benbrahim[at]afdb.org

Gravatar: SME Finance Forum

G20 Roundtable Highlights the Importance of Agricultural Finance

21.09.2015SME Finance Forum

This post was originally published on the SME Finance Forum website. 

On September 9, the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) brought together policymakers, financial service providers and researchers to discuss key trends and gaps in agricultural finance.

The demands on the global food system are rising rapidly. By 2050 there will be an additional two billion or more people to be fed. The agricultural sector is essential for food security, job creation and overall economic growth around the world. The proposed global Sustainable Development Goals call for increasing agricultural productivity, raising small holder income and ending hunger.

"There is large untapped potential to modernize the agricultural sector and boost productivity. The G20 recognizes that expanding access to finance in the agricultural sector is crucial to achieve these goals," said Susanne Dorasil (GPFI Co-Chair; German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)).

The Agricultural Finance Roundtable featured discussions around key emerging issues. What are new successful approaches to value chain finance? What are the opportunities for financial institutions to target women in the agriculture sector? Is index insurance viable for small holder farmers in emerging countries? Do we really understand the needs of smallholder farmers? How to exploit the potential of technological advances? International experts from academia and development organizations presented new research findings and policy recommendations in these areas. Five discussion papers formed the basis for the various sessions which led to the following main outcomes:

  • The importance of value chains - a key ingredient for growth and scale
  • Digital technology as a potential game changer
  • Subsidies can be helpful, at many levels - but be SMART with them!
  • Don't forget building human capital, and using expertise throughout VC
  • Critical role of women in agriculture and in VCs
  • Invest in better data
  • Good overall legal framework is essential

A central theme of the event was the role of innovative digital technologies in transforming agrifinance. "Digital technologies have helped to lower credit risk, reduce costs and make the delivery of financial services more efficient. This has expanded the range of financial services available to smallholder families in emerging markets," said Michael Tarazi, senior financial sector specialist at the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).

The G20 Agricultural Finance Roundtable was organized in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), BMZ, GIZ and SME Finance Forum. The outcomes of the roundtable will form a G20 synthesis report on new trends and innovations in agricultural finance.

Handling the Weather: Insurance, Savings, and Credit in West Africa

27.07.2015Francesca de Nicola, Economist, The World Bank

Farmers in developing countries face severe uninsured production risks and consequently may largely benefit from the introduction of formal financial instruments that would help them to smooth consumption. To shed light on this issue, in a recent World Bank working paper, we consider three separate policy interventions and examine their impact on consumption, investment and welfare. Specifically, we studied stylized contracts for weather index-insurance, savings and credit accounts, based on the formal financial instruments available for the rural households living in Burkina Faso and Senegal. We started our analysis from benchmark scenarios and then progressively moved towards more realistic policy interventions that incorporate the different limitations that each financial product carries.

Let's first set the stage of the study.Droughts, locust invasions, storms and floods caused by insufficient drainage infrastructure or dam system failures are among the most frequent natural hazards in West Africa. These calamities have significant livelihood consequences as indicated by the staggering number of food insecure people in 2012 (18.4 million, including about 1 million children under the age of 5), because of low and uneven rainfall coupled with attacks on crops by pests and locusts (UNICEF, 2012). These dramatic consequences are linked to the fact that when on-farm work constitutes the main source of income, fluctuations in agricultural income may have sizeable repercussions on consumption. In the absence of improved agricultural practices and formal financial products, farmers need to rely on a host of informal strategies to shield their consumption. Since the seminal work of Townsend 1994, research indicates that these informal risk-coping mechanisms, however, offer at best imperfect protection against risks, and these solutions tend to perform even worse in the case of wide-scale events such as droughts or floods. Besides, uninsured income risk has also indirect negative impact on consumption. Rare but severe weather shocks may induce farmers to under-invest in high-return, but also high-volatility projects, further depressing potential consumption.

Can weather index-insurance, savings or credit accounts mitigate these negative welfare effects? Each of these financial products has the potential to improve farmers' welfare, yet none of them completely abstract from complications that may limit the extent of the gains achievable. For example, index insurance and insured credit may not be immune from basis risk, arising because of the imperfect correlation between the insurance payout and farmers losses; on the other hand, savings may be very expensive means to cope with large shocks, and rather ineffective against calamities that occur in quick succession.

Which of these financial instruments is more welfare-enhancing? To answer this question, we set-up a dynamic stochastic optimization problem of consumption and investment and perform counterfactual analysis. A key feature of the model is that on-farm investment is subject to multiple sources of risk, both idiosyncratic and covariant in nature, and that a large part of this uncertainty is covariant. This allows us to correctly model the basis risk inherent in some of the financial innovations available. We numerically solve the optimization problem using calibrated parameters based on crop model as well as existing evidence in the literature focusing on Burkinabe and Senegalese farmers. We then show the impact on consumption, investment and welfare from the separate provision of three financial instruments: weather insurance, savings and credit. As anticipated, we start our analysis considering the effects from the provision of the "optimal" contracts (from the farmers' point of view) and then relax these assumptions and investigate the impact from providing more "realistic" contracts. The results for Burkina Faso and Senegal are strikingly similar. In both cases, the provision of weather insurance as well as credit leads to an increase in consumption and a decline in precautionary investment in riskless return-free assets. While qualitatively similar, these choices are quantitatively different as captured by the vast differences in the level of welfare gains that can be achieved.

Irrespective of the wealth owned, weather insurance enables farmers to achieve larger welfare gains which are decreasing in wealth. Over time, farmers gain less and less from the provision of these financial instruments due to the fact that the initial increase in consumption is not compensated by a sufficient increase in on-farm production. As we move away from the benchmark scenarios it becomes clear however that the welfare gains from weather insurance are highly sensitive to its pricing and that offering a relatively small discount (fee), substantially increases (cut) the benefits achievable by farmers. The introduction of saving accounts on the other hand induces farmers to save more and eventually allows farmers to consume more. As a result the welfare gains are increasing both in wealth and over time. Richer farmers gain more as they can enjoy higher returns on larger endowments. The initial contraction in consumption combined with the increase in riskless investments leads to higher consumption in the future and consequently larger gains. In sum, the selection of the "optimal" financial instrument depends on the level of wealth of the households as well as the quality of contract offered. This study offers a simple framework to reflect on these issues and assess the quantitative welfare implications of the different instruments across level of wealth and over time.

This blogpost is based on the paper "Handling the weather: insurance, savings and credit in West Africa", prepared by Francesca de Nicola from the World Bank.

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