The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the continent’s largest regional trade community officially commenced on January 1, 2021, creating a single market for goods and services across Africa.
While studies show that the AfCFTA will eliminate 90% of tariff barriers and address non-tariff barriers (NTBs) such as customs delays, which have for years hindered intra-African trade, some constraints will surely remain.
It is thus crucial to recognise that insurance, if well planned, can be a strategic partner in advancing these well intended aspirations.
Given the fact that risk in the AfCFTA arrangement cuts across the value chain; from transportation of goods, building infrastructure to making any other related investment, insurance can provide an essential safety net that is critical to investment and trade as well as raising affordable finance.
It is known that banks and financiers require insurance as a guarantee of performance when lending to infrastructure projects that are required for realising the full benefits of AfCFTA.
Also important to note are the high levels of political and economic risk, which make exporting to other African markets a risky proposition for many African firms, particularly small ones. In this case, greater provision of affordable trade insurance can help mitigate these risks and encourage African firms to engage in intra-African trade under the AfCFTA.
Uganda’s insurance industry, is well positioned and adequately capitalised to support the successful implementation of AfCFTA through provision of high-quality insurance services to businesses and persons exploiting the opportunities created by this wider market of 1.3 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion.
As the Regulator, we have been keenly following these developments over the years and have superintended the industry players to build the necessary capacity as well as make necessary investments to support the successful execution of the AfCFTA.
Several milestones have been attained in relation to this, among them is increasing the minimum paid-up capital requirements to give insurance firms the needed financial muscle to ably insure risks.
The minimum paid-up capital requirements for non-life insurance firms for instance increased to UShs6bn from UShs4bn while that for life insurance firms increased to UShs4.5bn from UShs3bn.
That for Health Membership Organisations (HMOs) increased to UShs1bn from UShs500m while Re-insurers are required to have UShs9bn, up from UShs6bn.
The industry is also shifting to Risk-Based Supervision (RBS) that will see the minimum capital requirements for each insurer, set depending on the levels of risks being underwritten as opposed to operating on compliance model that requires all insurers, irrespective of the risk levels, to meet the same capital standards.
RBS is expected to foster sound risk management practices and processes through better evaluation of risks and enable early identification of emerging and system-wide risks and enable IRA to assess companies and identify the most pressing risks for each, determine risk levels, financial vulnerability and ability to pay claims. RSB is also expected to ensure proper corporate governance for the benefit of both shareholders and the insuring public.
Recognising the need to make consumption of insurance, especially for those involved in import trade, we worked with various stakeholders including the Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Insurers’ Association, Shippers Council, Uganda Clearing Industry and Forwarding Association and Uganda Manufacturers Association, among others and have since developed an integrated IT platform to facilitate consumption of insurance on-line.
The platform will make it easy for importers to access insurance from locally licensed players, which is a legal requirement.
We are committed to continue searching for innovations to enhance accessibility to insurance and also make the entire value chain as effective as possible.
Mechanisms have also been put in place to ensure that insurance consumer rights are adequately protected.
Alhaj Kaddunabbi Ibrahim Lubega
Chief Executive Officer, IRA Uganda