Kenyan market driver AB Consultants have a dream - an Africa “where people are resilient against risks, have access to financial services and are thriving.” Co-founder and Director Anne Kamau (the ‘A’ in ‘AB’) tells us why customer centricity drives their passion.
MiN: What is the driving force behind AB Consultants?
Anne Kamau: My Co-founder Barbara Chesire and I wanted to expand the Kenyan microinsurance and inclusive insurance market. We had both witnessed poorly designed boardroom solutions which didn’t meet customers’ needs, failed in the market and damaged trust. We soon realised there was a bigger demand for our services beyond Kenya, and we’ve engaged in the wider African market as opportunities have come up. We focus on customer-centric, demand-driven solutions designed in partnership with the potential market - such as CoverApp, an InsurTech solution which gives informal sector workers, low-income households and higher-income earners access to inclusive insurance, depending on their needs.
MiN: What can you offer to customers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic?
AK: We use social media to create awareness of insurance as a mitigation strategy against pandemic-related risks - for example through our ResilientMe! game, an insurance and financial services education tool that leverages the gamification concept. We’re discussing partnerships with an NGO that builds financial capacity in our target market to roll out a consumer education campaign using the game.
We’re also making efforts to really understand and engage MSMEs. Loss of income or business interruption protection is a necessity, not an option, for any business that is forward -looking and wants to remain resilient against cross-cutting risks like the pandemic.
MiN: How important is InsurTech to your business model?
AK: It may be a cliché, but InsurTech is the way to go if the protection gap is to be narrowed. Uptake of technology - and mobile in particular - is almost 100 percent in many African counties, and Africans have embraced mobile phones to access financial services. The question is, are African insurance providers willing to innovate and explore beyond traditional insurance that offers little or no value to most people? Will they go beyond textbook insurance and develop completely out-of-the-box solutions which suit and attract their market? InsurTech can reach more people, more efficiently and more cost-effectively with simplified solutions - without the need of a third party.
MiN: Tell us about your unique human-wildlife conflict insurance?
AK: It’s very exciting for us. In Kenya, more than 70 percent of wildlife lives outside protected areas. Human populations are expanding into territory which was previously wildlife-only, creating more human-wildlife conflict (HWC), more death and injury (both human and animal), and more property destruction, crop raiding and livestock predation. The Kenyan government runs a HWC compensation scheme but it’s largely ineffective, so AB Consultants - in partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) - worked with the government to design a HWC insurance scheme to mitigate related risks. Unfortunately the pilot was halted by COVID-19, but it’s been approved for launch as soon as the pandemic eases. We’re very proud to have initiated and developed this scheme - the first of its kind - we hope to roll out similar projects in other African countries.
MiN: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the African market?
AK: The microinsurance market has hardly been tapped. Much effort has been put into building supply side capacity without similar efforts on the demand side - resulting in solutions that don’t resonate with the market, and consequent fatigue among development and donor partners. There are opportunities for those courageous enough to develop completely new out-of-the-box solutions that give real value to customers and renew their trust in insurance. Many existing solutions were borrowed from developed countries and are unnecessarily complex for most Africans. Simplicity, tangibility, accessibility and affordability must be taken to another level to address Africa’s risk mitigation needs.
MiN: Is there a business case for microinsurance?
AK: Yes, but not if it’s run like a conventional insurance business with the expectations and timelines of conventional insurance.
MiN: Are insurance companies trying hard enough to develop emerging markets?
AK: Not at all. They’re comfortable because they make a profit for their shareholders, so they don’t feel the need to grow the pie by reaching non-conventional clients.
MiN: Does the label “micro” hinder market development?
AK: Not significantly, although you need to be careful who you are talking to. Some consumers feel “micro” addresses their needs without feeling exploited, but others feel it demeans them.
MiN: Is there still a gender gap in insurance?
AK: Yes there is - unfortunately it’s women who shoulder the highest insurable risk burden in Africa.
MiN: What are the benefits of MiN membership?
AK: We joined in 2018 to share our expertise and knowledge with a network of like-minded professionals and stakeholders, but also to take advantage of the exposure, learning and opportunities that come from being a member. We’re excited to be on the MSMEs Best Practice Group and to share our work at the JMM. The MiN introduced us to the IIED, which led to developing the national HWC insurance scheme.
More broadly, the MiN can spur more solid growth in developing countries by engaging in different markets - for example through more regional outreach and activities. The plan to have more regional and country-specific engagements is a big step in the right direction.
Looking to the future, the MiN can play a very significant role encouraging stakeholders to develop demand-side capacity through research and development of customer-centric solutions. I would also like to see a more intimate and specific members’ cross-learning platform - where, for example, I would be very happy to share our experience and knowledge of the HWC insurance scheme. And of course, we could always do with better data sharing, research, regional collaboration, partnerships, consumer education programmes and collaboration with governments to secure livelihoods and build resilience.