Now known as Inclusive Guarantee in Africa- formerly PlaNet Guarantee – CEO Vance Abissa spoke to MiN about the name change and what it means for the future of one of West Africa’s leading providers of Microinsurance products. An adviser and broker specialising in microinsurance, Inclusive Guarantee now has offices in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal.
MiN: What was the thinking behind the rebrand in Africa?
Vance: We have been operating in West Africa for about ten years, promoting inclusion in the insurance sector. As well as our offices in France and four West African countries, we also work in other countries such as Togo. After a period of consolidation, we are concentrating on four key areas: consulting such as technical assistance and project management; microinsurance brokerage, harvest brokerage and traditional insurance. To mark this new dynamic, we have set out a new development plan covering the next five years, in addition to changing our name and our charter. This plan is fully supported by our shareholders, who include Pleiade Conseil International, Oiko Crédit, Blueochard (IIF); FINAREA and Planet Finance social business.
MiN: What is your main area of focus?
Vance: Climate insurance is one of our main areas of activity. We’re aiming to strengthen the resilience of farmers, their families and their communities by developing and distributing microinsurance solutions which suit their budgets and insurance coverage needs.
Currently, we assist various agricultural projects and partners by providing insurance services to farmers in several West African countries. In Mali, for example, we are helping an international company set up an insurance scheme to cover flood risks. In Senegal, we support the Caisse Nationale d'Assurances Agricole du Sénégal (CNAAS), which is the only insurance company covering agricultural risks during the implementation of projects led by the World Food Program. We’re currently researching several projects in other African countries where we will be able to bring our expertise.
MiN: Why does Inclusive Guarantee believe so strongly in inclusive insurance?
Vance: The vast majority of people in West Africa depend on agriculture, and climate change has a constant impact on their production and therefore their incomes. Inclusive Guarantee aims to increase the resilience of small-scale farmers to the effects of climate change, especially drought.
Smallholders want simple insurance products tailored to their needs. They want support in the form of training and raising awareness of insurance and how it can help them. Inclusive Guarantee offers products which reflect these requirements - our approach is guided by simplicity, training, awareness and relevance.
For example, the insurance penetration rate in the CIMA (Conference Interafricaine des Marchés d’Assurances) zone is less than three percent, but we strongly believe that promoting inclusive insurance will help improve this rate and strengthen the resilience of excluded low-income populations.
Take another example - in 2018 we helped organise the MiN’s regional workshops in West Africa which aimed to provide microinsurance training and capacity building for microfinance institutions (MFIs). The two workshops in Dakar and Ouagadougou were opportunities to share experiences with different actors in the microinsurance sector, such as MFIs, technical assistance providers and regulators. It’s interesting that most of the distributors of microinsurance products have pretty much the same needs and the same issues. They are mainly concerned about the simplicity of the products on offer and getting insurers to respect their commitments.
We’re also looking forward to the MiN training session at this year’s African Microfinance Week (SAM). The SAM is a beautiful platform that brings together most players in the microfinance sector, and it’s an excellent opportunity to focus on simple climate insurance products. More and more MFIs are interested in distributing this type of insurance. (Note: interview conducted before training, which was held on 24 October)
MiN: What is your take on the current inclusive insurance market?
Vance: In the CIMA zone where we operate there is a real opportunity to introduce strong microinsurance regulations. On the downside, the main constraint to market development is lack of funding for the study, training, awareness and management phases. For us, the focus must be on microinsurance to cover agricultural risk - that’s one of the best ways to enhance food security for low-income people. In our experience, it’s essential to define the products to be proposed, to offer simple products and to use digital technology.
MiN: How can Inclusive Guarantee work with the MiN in the future?
Vance: Inclusive Guarantee now has fifteen years of experience in several countries, while the MiN has created an extensive network of members who can often complement each other to develop microinsurance. We should use this synergy to help develop the market, attract more members and organise workshops, training and master classes.