The state of marine insurance in Africa was well summarised in this year’s IUMI conference which took place in Cape Town, South Africa. StilFresh had the opportunity to share its experience relating to carriage of goods in Africa.

The weather was largely welcoming, the venue was excellent, the organisation was spot on and there were over 500 participants from various countries around the world. Word has it that this conference saw the largest number of African delegates. The IUMI conference was held on the African soil for the first time in its 144 year history.

What does this mean for the continent? What lessons can be drawn from the event and how can we determine the future trajectory of the industry in Africa?

It may be many more years before IUMI comes back to the African continent. But holding 2018 conference in Cape Town means that Africa as a market is no longer in the shadows. In fact, this has been the case for a while now. Companies like Allianz, Munich Re, AXA and host of others have been playing in the African space for a long time. However, this time, IUMI has displayed a definitive interest in Africa by appointing Mr Hilton Adams of Munich Re as its Africa ambassador. Given Hilton’s track record, we should see more African countries becoming members of or getting involved in IUMI activities going forward.

The South African Insurance Association and the organising committee of the event did a fantastic job. The coordination between Mike Brews of Horizon Marine Underwriters, Viviene Pearson of SAIA and a host of others was orchestra-like. Feedback from most of the attendees was that the bar has been set very high and that Canada has some work to do. What is most important here is that the event was hosted in Africa by Africans. The lesson here is a simple one – we too can. South Africa has shown the rest of the continent that it is possible to host such a prestigious event successfully on the continent. The hope now will be, that other African countries take the baton.

Africa’s marine insurance penetration still remains disappointingly low. While global premiums have inched up by 2% according to IUMI’s GLOBAL MARINE INSURANCE REPORT 2018 , Africa’s numbers are still at a disappointing 2.4% There is work to be done. Local players need to seize the opportunities which come with the increasing global trade. Protectionism alone will not do the trick. Africa needs to invest in developing talent in marine insurance. There are few markets like South Africa and Mauritius on the continent with long histories of marine products and extensive local talent. With the advent of ingenious insurtechs, the African market will see even more competition. However, just like the payment miracle, mpesa of Kenya, we might just see a similar one in the marine space. Allianz is leading the way with their digital micro insurer BIMA.