47th Conference Of African Insurance Organisation Themed: Rebuilding Africa’s Economy: An Insurance Perspective
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE 47TH CONFERENCE OF THE AFRICAN INSURANCE ORGANISATION THEMED: REBUILDING AFRICA’S ECONOMY: AN INSURANCE PERSPECTIVE ON THE 8TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2021
It is a great pleasure to be a part of this special conference of African Insurance Practitioners even though it is on the last evening of what I am told has been a highly successful conference. And I must immediately let you know one of the reasons why I am glad I am able to catch the conference before the end. It is the theme. Rebuilding Africa’s Economy: An Insurance Perspective.
This is an absolutely important subject today, especially as we in Africa prepare for the monumental economic challenges and, of course, the great opportunities that lie ahead in the next decade or so.
This decade will in significant ways, define what Africa would look like in the next millennium. This is an indication of how dynamic the economic environment is today and how quickly things will change in the next few years.
Every smart economic grouping whether governments or businesses or civil societies must be thinking, planning, and strategizing for this new future. This is why your theme is certainly as my millennial daughter would say “on point.”
I will just briefly offer my thoughts on two crucial issues as they may impact the Insurance industry in Africa, and I am sure these issues would also have engaged your attention in your deliberations in the last few days.
The first is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the other is climate change. The free trade agreement presents a major opportunity for African countries. By some estimates, if we get it right, we can bring several million out of extreme poverty and raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 per day today.
There are potential income gains of up to $450 billion and just cutting red tape and simplifying customs procedures alone could drive us up to $250billion of that sum. So, what does all this mean for the Insurance industry in Africa? Well, plenty of opportunities for one thing.
More trade in goods will mean a greater need for Insurance services, brokers, in particular, should expect a boom, demand for trade facilitation services will rise, but obviously, companies that already have market presence in other African countries, even if by collaboration, will obviously benefit more than others. But perhaps as we whet our appetites with the great opportunities ahead, we must remind ourselves that the free trade agreements are not just about opening up markets for trade in goods, but it is also opening up for trade in services. In other words, countries will have to welcome service providers opening up shop in their own markets.
We can expect to see more well-capitalized Insurance providers from other African countries coming to compete for example, in the Nigerian market. And we shouldn’t be surprised if this happens quickly. Services can be set up faster than manufacturing plants. Nigerian financial service companies, especially banks are already in many African countries, the likes of Zenith, Access, UBA. How about Insurance companies? We should in my view, be looking at developing homegrown international African Insurance Conglomerates. The time is now.
The other issue is climate change. How is the African Insurance Industry preparing for the interesting days ahead? I read a transcript of a Mackenzie podcast sometime earlier in the year about the implications of climate change for the financial industry, including the Insurance industry, and especially managing the various risks associated with the physical effects of climate change as well as those associated with the transition to a low carbon future.
These include regulatory risks, technological risks, market risks, reputational risks, and legal risks. It was quite eye-opening. So, while there will obviously be opportunities for new Insurance products and solutions especially in the property and casualty segment of the business, Insurance companies must also be prepared for the systemic nature of climate-induced damage with the possibilities of market failures and more system-wide destabilization.
Here in Nigeria, the growing intensity of flooding and damage to vast agricultural acreages might have a knock-on effect on other areas of the economy. Further slumps in the economy are bad for everyone, even insurers.
But I think it is important to mention that Insurance companies have the best understanding of risk of any other industry, and this might be the perfect opportunity for the industry to assist regulators and our economies with developing risk mitigation strategies.
For Africa, there is perhaps a more significant challenge. In the past two years the wealthier countries after building their own economies on fossil fuels, are now banning or restricting public investments in fossil fuels including gas. Seven European countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and Ireland announced that they would halt public funding for certain fossil fuel projects abroad. Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, the largest in the world, sold out of positions in major mining and energy companies because of environmental concerns. And in 2018, Ireland became the first country to pledge to entirely divest from fossil fuels. Also, the World Bank and other multilateral development banks are being urged by some shareholders to do the same.
The African Development Bank, for instance, is increasingly unable to support large natural gas projects. Already some OECD-based Insurance companies are already committing to reducing their commitments to carbon-intensive industries by 2030.
If this trend continues what happens to Africa’s growing oil and gas markets? And what would this mean for African Insurance companies?
I think African Insurance companies must now speak and act differently. You must be at the forefront of the campaign for a just and equitable transition to a low carbon future. This means that we cannot accept a defunding of gas projects when gas is an important transition fuel for us, not just to get our people from the environmentally damaging firewood to cooking gas and also autogas for our automobiles, but also, to provide much-needed power for industries and domestic use.
Africa’s economic future might really be at risk if we do not find our voices and in unison insist that the necessary speed to zero emissions must not mean disaster for our African economies.
Hon. Minister, ladies, and gentlemen let me let you go after all this is meant to be a gala night and not another working session.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to join you tonight. I wish all our visiting guests’ safe trip back home and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Thank you and God bless you.