Côte d’Ivoire grows insurance premiums and supports domestic players

Côte d’Ivoire’s strong economic growth since 2012 has driven a sharp expansion in the insurance sector, with premium rising almost 40% between 2013 and 2017. While the main actors have remained the same, the last few years have seen an influx of foreign and local players entering the market. If the increased competition has sometimes resulted in lower prices, especially in terms of auto coverage, it also led companies to take risks, with some finding themselves unable to fulfil their commitments to their clients. This has not helped to boost the population’s confidence in the sector in a country where insurance penetration is at less than 2% of GDP. In this context, new regulations – particularly minimum capital requirements – that will begin to be enforced in 2019 are expected to significantly change the Ivorian insurance landscape, leading to market consolidation and improved services.

Structure & Oversight

Côte d’Ivoire is a key regional player in Africa’s insurance sector. The country accounts for nearly one-third of the total turnover of the Inter-African Conference on Insurance Markets (Conférence Interafricaine des Marchés d’ Assurances, CIMA), which oversees insurance regulation in Côte d’Ivoire and 13 other African markets. As of December 2018 Côte d’Ivoire counted 27 insurance companies in activity, of which four were life insurance specialists, 16 offered only non-life products and seven provided both. In recent years, a number of companies have started to operate in the country. French insurer Société Mutuelle d’Assurance du Bâ timent et des Travaux Publiques opened a branch in April 2018 after being granted a licence two months earlier. Tunisia’s Assurances COMAR also launched a subsidiary in November 2017, with plans to provide fire, accident and transport products.

Prior to COMAR, Morocco-based Wafa Insurance, offering general and health insurance, protection and savings products, started to operate in the country in late 2016. Atlanta Insurance, another Moroccan insurer, launched operations in Côte d’Ivoire in October 2017, a year after receiving government approval.

Premium

Côte d’Ivoire’s economic recovery since 2011 has enabled insurance premium to also grow steadily. In 2017 premium increased by 6.5% to CFA324.2bn (€486.3m), from CFA304.4bn (€456.6m) in 2016, according to the Association of Insurance Companies of Côte d’Ivoire (Association des Sociétés d’ Assurances de Côte d’Ivoire, ASA-CI). Although growth has slowed from the 12.8% and 9.15% recorded in 2015 and 2016, respectively, ASA-CI’s figures show that the value of premium has surged by 37.5% since 2013.

In line with an African trend, non-life insurance schemes make up the largest proportion of the market. In 2017 non-life grew by a modest 3.3% to CFA177.6bn (€266.4m), or 54.8% of the market. The life insurance segment expanded more rapidly, at 10.7%, to reach CFA146.7bn (€220m), or 45.2% of the market.

“The revenue of the insurance sector is growing in most of the markets in the CIMA region, especially in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. The overall trend is bullish and demand is rising, with governments carrying out ambitious investment plans while the middle class is growing,” Mouhamed Diane, West Africa underwriter at CIMA regional reinsurer CICA-RE, told OBG. “The non-life segment rose strongly in the past, but the life segment is now progressing faster. Companies are offering more advantages to their employees, which drives the growth of the health and life segments.”

Market Penetration

However, insurance penetration in Côte d’Ivoire remains low and was estimated at 1.7% of GDP in 2017, a slight increase from 1.44% in 2016 and 1% in 2013. This is higher than in Russia (1.4%) but below the African average of 3%. South Africa leads the continent with a penetration of 13.8% in 2017, followed by Namibia (7.6%), Morocco (3.5%) and Kenya (2.6%). Many people in Côte d’Ivoire continue to see insurance as an added expense rather than an investment, with some preferring to rely on informal insurance through friends and family. “Customer confidence is key to increasing insurance penetration. Unsatisfactory reimbursements, late payments and other malpractices are leading players to step up their customer satisfaction strategies,” Fructueux Tetiali, director-general of insurance provider Saar Insurance, told OBG. Low reimbursement and payment defaults have strongly affected the population’s confidence in insurance companies and lowered its awareness. “Non-payment and payment delays have impacted the sector, causing reluctance on behalf of the Ivorian population to take out formal insurance products,” Issiaka Savane, director of microfinance institution Union Nationale des Coopératives d’Epargne et de Crédit, told OBG. “There is a need to bolster the sector’s efficiency and boost confidence among customers,” he added.

“If we look at revenue, they are growing year after year and we can think things are going well. But are customers happy by the services offered by insurance companies? The feelings are really mixed,” Daniel Diallo, secretary-general of the ASA-CI, told OBG. “There is an undeniable lack of confidence among the population towards insurers. Claim settlements take time and some fraud that has taken place in the past has made people more cautious. Insurers need to improve their communication strategies to reach out to more clients; they need to explain better why insurance matters, that it is not an untouchable product.”

Regulation and oversight remains an important component of the sector. After being placed under provisional administration in 2016 because of financial mismanagement, Tropical Société d’Assurances (TSA) had its licence withdrawn in January 2018 after failing to pay CFA1.2bn (€1.8m) worth of claims to its clients.

Sector Performance

Payouts rose by 3.6% from CFA162.5bn (€243.8m) in 2016 to CFA168.3bn (€252.5m) in 2017, according to ASA-CI. With total premium having advanced on the period by 6.5%, total payouts as a share of premium fell from 53.4% to 51.9%. Payments increased by 3.9% to reach CFA72.4bn (€108.5m) for the non-life segment and 3.3% to CFA96bn (€143.9m) for the life segment.

The technical result of the sector – the difference between revenue (including premium) and expenses (including payouts) – fell by 12% but remains positive at CFA42.8bn (€64.2m), compared with CFA48.9bn (€73.3m) in 2016. The technical result has fluctuated significantly over the past several years, going from CFA110.9bn (€166.4m) in 2013 to CFA10bn (€15m) in 2014 and CFA29.1bn (€43.7m) in 2015.

“The sector is not benefitting as it should from economic growth. That is mostly because there is too much competition, meaning firms are playing with prices to gain market share, and revenue cannot increase considerably,” Ernest Assamoi Anasse, member of the executive bureau of the Federation of African National Insurance Companies, told OBG.

Major Players

With TSA no longer in operation, there were 21 insurance companies in the non-life segment and 11 within the life segment in late 2018, which included five companies that were involved in both segments. According to the Ivorian government, the companies had combined assets of CFA633bn (€949.5m) in 2016, the latest data available.

In the non-life segment the top-five companies – Saham, Allianz, Sunu Group, AXA Insurance and NSIA – controlled 69% of the market in 2017. The Ivorian unit of Saham Finances, a Moroccan insurance company recently taken over by South Africa’s largest insurer Sanlam, was first with sales of CFA52.5bn (€78.7m) and a market share of 29.5%. It was followed by the subsidiary of Munich-based Allianz with sales of CFA18.8bn (€28.3m) and a 10.6% share.

The unit of Sunu Group ranked third with sales of CFA18.1bn (€27.1m) and a 10.2% share, while the branch of France’s AXA Insurance was fourth with sales of CFA17.1bn (€25.6m) and a 9.6% share. Ivorian insurer NSIA completed the top five with sales of CFA16.1bn (€24.1m) and a market share of 9%.

As for the life segment, the five largest companies – Sunu Vie, NSIA Vie, Saham Vie, Allianz Vie and La Loyale Vie Assurance – made up 88.9% of the market share in late 2017. Sunu Vie topped the list with sales of CFA48.7bn (€73.1m) and a market share of 33.1%. NSIA Vie came second with sales of CFA28.8bn (€43.3m) representing a 19.6% share. With sales of CFA23.5bn (€35.2m) and a share of 16%, Saham ranked third, followed by Allianz Vie with sales of CFA20.9bn (€31.4m) and a share of 14.2%, and La Loyale Vie Assurance with sales of CFA9bn (€13.5m) or a share of 6.1%.

Regulatory Environment

The policy-making initiatives of the insurance sector falls under the purview of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, but Côte d’Ivoire is also part of the CIMA, a regional body in charge of issuing regulation and steering enforcement efforts for its 14 members.

Since the signing of its founding treaty in 1992 and the establishment of its first insurance code in 1995, CIMA has overseen regulatory implementation for Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Cameroon, Benin, the Central African Republic, Congo, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Togo, Senegal and Burkina Faso. The group’s principal objective is to standardise insurance legislation and regulations across the region, and coordinate oversight of insurance companies.

Although it is widely criticised for being too small to cover all 14 member countries, the regulator has made efforts in recent years to strengthen the sector and increase protection of customers. In 2011 CIMA prohibited the issuance of insurance on credit, a measure that was meant to avoid unpaid benefits. In 2016 it increased minimum capital requirements to boost solvency among insurance firms.

Under the new regulation, companies need to have minimum capital of CFA3bn (€4.5m) by 2019 and CFA5bn (€7.5m) by 2021. It is strongly expected that the new rules will force companies to increase their capital, disappear or merge for survival. “We believe that the measure will lead to market consolidation with stronger companies in activity,” Diallo told OBG. “This will avoid a repeat of what we have witnessed in the past, when some companies did not have enough funds to meet their commitments.”

Some industry observers told OBG that regulation should go further and also limit the number of companies that are operating in the insurance sector. “Regulating access to the market without regulating the number of companies is without reason. One should not be giving more licences in a market that is already saturated,” Kamal Harati, CEO of insurance broker KH Assureurs Conseils, told OBG. “The regulator must stop giving new permits and wait for the market to regulate itself. Having too many companies means that some of them do not have enough money to settle payments. They capture market share preventing bigger firms from becoming stronger.”

Life Segment

As the Ivorian population is becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of insurance protection, and with the effects of the middle-class growth, life insurance recorded the second-largest increase in the amount of premium collected in 2017.

The life segment comprises individual and collective policies, which made up 52% and 48% of the segment in 2017, respectively. The value of individual policies increased by 13.7% to CFA77.5bn (€116.2m). Of this, 57% was related to savings products and 33.1% to mixed products. Collective policies, which are defined as group coverage entered into by employers to provide insurance for their workers, rose by 11.4% to CFA71.6bn (€109.2m). Additionally, savings contracts comprised 59.4%, while provident contracts accounted for 25.5% of collective policies. Among the notable recent changes in the sector, Nigerian insurance company Leadway acquired the assets of Alliance Africaine d’Assurances (AAA Vie) and launched its activities in August 2018. The company aims to expand life insurance products to the lower-income segment, which includes small business owners as well as farmers.

Auto Coverage

Ivorian drivers are required to purchase liability insurance to cover damages caused to others. Given that it is the only insurance mandated by law and seeing as compliance is regularly enforced at police checkpoints, auto coverage has traditionally been the backbone of Ivorian insurance.

Auto premium were worth CFA59.8bn (€89.8m) in 2017, accounting for 34% of non-life premium. However, sales declined by 2.4% from the CFA61.3bn (€92m) recorded in 2016. Payouts rose from CFA19.5bn (€29.3m) to CFA21.8bn (€32.6m). Although there is an increasing number of cars on Ivorian roads, fiercer competition within the segment means some firms have been selling premium at a lower price than the one that has been set by the state, therefore impacting sales value. In May 2018 the situation prompted authorities to sign an agreement with insurance companies through which the firms committed to respect the premium that was fixed by the government.

“The respect of the premium is a major challenge for the sector. Competition is such that some companies have been illegally selling premiums below the set price. They consequently faced issues paying the benefits when they had to, and they ended up with a lot of unpaid bills,” Diallo told OBG. “Also, even if the number of cars in the country is rising steadily, we estimate that between 30% and 40% of the vehicles in circulation do not have insurance policy coverage. It is another challenge for the sector.”

Health Insurance

With private insurance becoming more popular among the middle class and employers increasingly purchasing group policies for their employees, health insurance is growing fast. Health and accident coverage is the second-largest non-life segment after automobile, recording the fastest growth in premium in 2017 in all life and non-life segments. Health premium rose 11.3% over the year, from CFA47.4bn (€71.1m) to CFA52.8bn (€79.2m), accounting for 29% of non-life premium.

In 2006 incentives were introduced for those subscribing to health coverage. While this measure has helped boost growth, the market is mostly driven by employers that are taking out group policies on behalf of their staff, rather than individual buyers purchasing premium on the open market.

However, given the high number of claims and fraud, health coverage is also one of the most unprofitable segments. In 2017 payouts increased by 15.4%, the fastest rise in all segments. Payouts have also been growing faster than premium, from CFA31.6bn (€47.4m) to CFA36.5bn (€54.8m). As a result, the deficit has widened from CFA367.9m (€552,000) to CFA1.2bn (€1.7m).

Universal Care

Revenue in the health care segment is expected to be considerably impacted in the years to come as the Ivorian government is preparing to roll out a universal health care insurance (Couverture Maladie Universelle Complémentaire, CMU-C) system, with a stated aim of providing low-cost and affordable health coverage to all citizens.

The National Health Insurance Fund (Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Maladie, CNAM) was inaugurated in January 2015 to oversee the project, and the pilot phase was launched in April 2017, notably giving priority to undergraduate and graduate students. CNAM claims that 115,000 students have been enrolled as of August 2018 out of an intended target goal of 150,000.

The CMU-C system, largely criticised for delayed implementation, was expected to be brought into the mainstream in 2018. The contribution mechanism has been established for employees in the formal sector, with enrollees asked to pay half of the total CFA1000 (€1.50) per month for basic coverage. The World Bank and the French Development Agency are conducting a study to select a collection method for people in the informal sector. Some 85,000 low-income households were identified in 2017, and 30,000 such inhabitants were expected to be covered by the CMU-C in 2018.

“The impact of the universal care system on private health insurance is still unclear,” Diallo told OBG. “Everybody should soon be covered, but the range of care provided by the CMU-C will be low and it is unclear whether public hospital facilities will have sufficient capacity to treat everyone. We are waiting to see the system fully implemented to get a better idea of the impact on private insurers,” he added.

Other Non-life Segments

Property insurance, which includes fire and damage cover, is the third-largest non-life subsegment with a share of 19%. Over the year, premium rose by 7.8%, going from CFA31.4bn (€47.1m) to CFA33.8bn (€50.7m). However, profits fell by 78% during the same period, from CFA15.1bn (€22.7m) to CFA3.4bn (€5.1m).

With a market share of 9.7% of the non-life segment, transport is the fourth-largest insurance line. Transport premium fell in 2017, from CFA17.4bn (€26m) to CFA17.2bn (€25.7m). However, with paid benefits dropping by over 50% over the period, profits increased from CFA10.2bn (€15.3m) to CFA11.7bn (€17.6m).

Other smaller non-life subsegments include risks and miscellaneous damages, with premium of CFA8.1bn (€12.2m) for a share of 4.6% in 2017, followed by the public liability insurance subsegment, with premium of CFA5.8bn (€8.8m) and a 3.29% share.

Crop Insurance

With agriculture accounting for 23% of GDP and Côte d’Ivoire ranking as the world’s biggest cocoa producer, the country is considering rolling out index-based agricultural insurance to protect farmers from climate risk and stabilise their income. A country-specific study carried out by the World Bank in June 2017, and further updated in February 2018, assessed the potential to develop the innovative type of insurance for four commodities, namely cocoa, cotton, maize and rice. The pilot phase was expected to be launched in 2018 (see analysis).

Pensions & Retirement

Major reforms have been carried out over the past few years in both the public and private pension systems to reduce the sector’s deficit. Changes included raising the retirement age from 55 to 60, changing the base calculation of the pension payments in order to take into account 15 of the employee’s higher grossing years instead of the previous figure of 10, and increasing contributions.

The pension system for Ivorian public workers is run by the General State Agent Retirement Fund, while the National Social Insurance Fund (Caisse Nationale de Prévoyance Sociale, CNPS) manages pensions for private workers. In 2017 the CNPS – whose surplus has grown each year since 2012 to reach CFA118bn (€177m) – signalled it plans to offer coverage schemes for those in the informal sector, who constitute 90% of the Ivorian workforce. The reform would bring the number of people covered by the CNPS from 700,000 to nearly 10m people, increasing its asset base from CFA300bn (€450m) to CFA1trn (€1.5bn) in 2023.

Reinsurance

Supported by regulation changes introduced in 2016, the reinsurance market has been growing over the past few years in Côte d’Ivoire and the CIMA region more generally. In April 2016 CIMA introduced changes to article 308 of its regulatory code, imposing stricter limits on the extent to which players can take out reinsurance in countries located outside the region. The aim of the reform was to see that more reinsurance premium was retained in the domestic market. It was estimated in 2015 that two-thirds of reinsurance business was given to companies outside of the CIMA region.

The reform appears to have benefitted local reinsurers, which have seen their profits rise appreciably since 2016. The changes also pushed foreign firms to open offices in the region so as to be able to operate. Germany’s Hannover Re opened a representative office in Abidjan in late 2017 and obtained a licence in February 2018, while Kenya Re, ZEP-RE (Kenya), WAICA Re (Sierra Leone) and Société Centrale de Réassurance (Morocco) were also granted permits in 2017 and 2018.

All these companies settled in Abidjan, reinforcing Côte d’Ivoire’s position as a regional centre for reinsurance in West Africa. Two intra-governmental reinsurers, CICA-RE and Africa Re, continue to dominate the industry. Ivorian firm NCA Re, Nigeria’s Continental Reinsurance and Senegal’s Sen-RE also carry out activities in the country (see analysis).

Distribution Channels

The distribution channel of the insurance sector relies on a wide range of intermediaries – brokers – who connect clients with insurance companies. More specifically, insurance brokers use their knowledge of the insurance sector in order to assess their customers’ needs and purchase products on their behalf. With the insurance sector significantly growing over the past few years, the number of brokers operating in the country has more than doubled since 2014 and is currently close to 300, according to KH Assureurs Conseils’ Harati. Most of the insurance brokers are informal and have poor branding, but industry observers say that a consolidation process is ongoing within the sector, and the quality of the services provided is improving.

Brokers can also be a source of innovation. Online insurance broker Baloon, which operates in francophone West Africa, allows clients to subscribe to auto coverage online via computer or mobile application – an innovative subscription mode which the company says will help boost the distribution of insurance products. If financial technology (fintech) has revolutionised the banking sector worldwide, as well as in many African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, e-insurance and mobile technology still have yet to make a significant impact on the insurance provision platform. In addition to its potential impact on the penetration rate, fintech can also help improve transparency and reduce fraud both of which remain a major issue for insurers, particularly in the auto, health and property segments.

Micro-insurance

Also still marginally developed in Côte d’Ivoire, a number of micro-insurance products targeting the rural and low-income population have been launched in recent years, in many cases through mobile money platforms of telecoms providers, lending an argument to the fact that micro-insurance may be an important component in the future of the sector. Most of the products offered are related to the life segment. NSIA, for example, partnered with MTN and Moov to provide funeral expenses in the event of the policyholder’s death. Life insurance firm Sunu Vie also teamed up with Orange to provide life insurance products up to CFA500,000 (€750), while Atlantique Assurance Vie collaborated with Moov to provide Moov-Prévoyance, which covers costs associated with death or injury in the event of a traffic accident.

In a 2016 study, Luxembourg-based Microinsurance Network, a non-profit multi-stakeholder platform, estimated that just 151,000 people were covered by micro-insurance in Côte d’Ivoire in 2014, for a coverage ratio of 0.73%, far behind the industry leader, Ghana (29.98%), as well as Togo (3.43%), Burkina Faso (2.77%) and Mali (0.84%). Still, the sector experienced growth of 123% between 2011 and 2014.

While it is a great way to reach the informal sector, established insurance companies can be reluctant to invest in micro-insurance with many firms, considering that the volume of premium needs to be significant to make it profitable and worth the costs involved with the implementation of related technology.

Outlook

With annual economic growth forecast at 7% through to 2023 and a growing middle class, the sector is set to continue its expansion. New capital requirements are expected to reshape the sector, likely leading to consolidation among players and driving a much-needed improvement of insurance services. This will provide a strategic opportunity for insurers to both increase the confidence of consumers in products and give a much-needed boost to insurance inclusion. In addition, the rollout of the universal health system – currently still in its pilot phase – will shake up the private health insurance segment in ways that remain to be seen. In the meantime, new regulations in the reinsurance industry, designed to protect the domestic market, are set to reinforce Côte d’Ivoire’s strong regional position while significantly increasing the business opportunities for domestic companies.

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2019

Insurance chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2019

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