Côte d'Ivoire's insurance sector experiencing premium growth and regulatory reform

 

The insurance sector in Côte d’Ivoire has enjoyed a dynamic half-decade. Strong and sustained economic growth since 2012 has made the industry increasingly attractive, prompting the arrival of multiple new competitors aiming to establish a foothold in West Africa’s biggest insurance market. Premiums have grown steadily, keeping pace with GDP growth and driving increases in insurance penetration.

While the main sector players have remained relatively constant in both the life and non-life segments, there has been an influx of both foreign and domestic participants, leading to fierce price competition in some sub-segments. Meanwhile, ongoing policy and regulatory reforms are expected to impact the sector in the coming years. Chief among these are the application of new rules on the retention of reinsurance risks within the sub-region and, in particular, the phased increase in minimum capital requirements over a five-year period (see analysis).

Premiums & Penetration

On the back of continued strong economic growth, 2016 was another good year for insurance premiums, which increased by 9.15% to reach CFA304.4bn (€456.6m), according to the Association of Insurance Companies of Côte d’Ivoire (Association des Sociétés d’Assurances de Côte d’Ivoire, ASA-CI). Although this represented a modest slowdown on the 12.8% expansion witnessed in 2015, ASA-CI figures show that premium growth has averaged 10.2% since 2013.

As is the case across the continent, non-life insurance schemes took up a larger proportion of the market in Côte d’Ivoire. In 2016 non-life grew by 7.64% and accounted for CFA171.9bn (€257.9m), or some 56.5% of total gross premiums. The life insurance segment rose by 11.16%, accounting for CFA132.5bn (€198.8m) and 46.5% of the total market.

With inflation-adjusted premiums growing slightly ahead of real GDP, insurance penetration has advanced modestly, reaching 1.44% in 2016, up from about 1% in 2013, with some 4% of the population covered. This puts the country on a par with the likes of Saudi Arabia (1.55%) and Russia (1.38%), but some way behind other continental players such as South Africa and Namibia, where insurance penetration is already well into double-digits (see analysis).

The economic outlook for the medium term is positive given several factors, including a growth rate that is expected to level off at 7%, according to the World Bank. However, any slowdown in public investment due to the fiscal constraints facing government could have a knock-on effects on the non-life insurance sector (see Economy chapter).

“We expect premium growth to remain strong in the longer-term, even as the economy cools as the reconstruction boom fades. However, the biggest opportunity lies in the vast majority of households and small businesses that don’t currently have insurance,” Beatrice Mamadou, commercial director of insurance, reinsurance and risk management brokerage group Gras Savoye, told OBG.

Profitability

Encouraged by strong premium growth and a reduction in claims, profit margins more than doubled from CFA7.3bn (€11m), or 2.6% of premiums, in 2015 to reach CFA17.3bn (€26m), or 5.7% of premiums in 2016. The majority of this was driven by auto coverage, which, as the largest segment by premiums, accounted for more than half of sector-wide profit growth. Margins in the auto segment increased from 8.9% of premiums in 2015 to 17.1% in 2016. This was followed by life insurance, which expanded from 2.3% to 2.9%. Across other areas profit margins fell; with non-life segments except transport falling from 24.4% to 11.8%; and fire and other damages from 12.8% to -9.3%. The health insurance segment recorded losses overall, although the margin improved from -7.8% to -3.8%.

Life & Non-Life Players

There were 22 insurers operating in Côte d’Ivoire at the end of 2016, of which four were life insurance specialists, 12 provided only non-life products and six offered both. According to the Ivorian government, these firms collectively managed assets totalling CFA633.9bn (€950.9m), equivalent to 3.4% of GDP in 2016. Including both life and non-life institutions, the top four insurance firms, Saham, Sunu Group, NSIA and Allianz, accounted for 69.9% of the sector market by sales in 2016, and occupied the top-four places in both the life and non-life segments, with aggregate market shares of 23.7%, 19.5%, 14.1% and 12.6%, respectively.

With a 29.8% market share Saham, the largest player in non-life insurance, recorded sales of CFA51.2bn (€76.8m). Allianz was the second-largest in this segment, with sales of CFA19.4bn (€29.1m) and an 11.3% market share; followed by NSIA, with sales of CFA16.4bn (€24.6m) and covering 9.5% of the market. With a 9.2% share each, Sunu Group and AXA Insurance came in fourth and fifth place with respective total recorded sales of CFA15.8bn (€23.7m) and CFA15.7bn (€23.6m). The remaining non-life insurers comprised less than 6% of the market.

Sunu Vie spearheaded the life insurance market with sales of CFA43.3bn (€65m) and a 32.7% share. NSIA Vie placed second with CFA26.2bn (€39.3m) in sales and a 19.8% share. These were followed by Saham Vie, with sales of CFA20.7bn (€31.1m) and a 15.6% market share, and Allianz Vie with CFA18.7bn (€28.1m) and 14.1%. Despite being under restructuring, La Loyale Vie Assurance still occupied fifth spot in the life segment with a 6.8% market share.

While it is not uncommon for players to be allied with banks, most are specialist insurers and include global firms like Allianz and AXA. However, NSIA and Atlantique Assurances, for example, operate using an integrated bank and insurance company model.

Rankings

In 2016 five Ivorian insurance companies ranked among the top-100 on the continent, according to a report issued by the publication Jeune Afrique. Leading the rankings was Sunu’s life insurance arm in 26th place, up three places on 2015. Saham’s non-life business ranked 56th, up two places from the previous year. These were followed by NSIA’s life division in 88th place (recording no change) and its non-life business in 95th place, down four places. Rounding out the country’s representation in the top-100 was Saham’s life arm, in 98th place.

New Entrants

As with many sectors of the Ivorian economy, investor interest from Morocco has picked up in recent years. This included a number of insurers that entered the market in 2016.

Wafa Insurance provides general insurance, health insurance, and protection and savings products and is part of Attijariwafa Bank, the leading bank in Morocco and majority owner of Société Ivoirienne de Banque, one of the largest banks operating in Côte d’ Ivoire (see Banking chapter). As such, the arrival of its insurance arm in late 2016 bolstered the ranks of integrated models, ensuring opportunities for the cross-selling of banking and insurance products.

Meanwhile, Moroccan Atlanta Insurance officially started activities in October 2017, one year after receiving government approval. While Atlanta will initially concentrate on the non-life segment following its recent CFA5bn (€7.5m) investment in the country, it has already established a life insurance subsidiary in Abidjan, and is expected to move into this segment once the relevant licence has been granted by the Inter-African Conference of Insurance Markets ( Conférence Inter-africaine des Marchés d’Assurances, CIMA), which oversees insurance regulation in Côte d’Ivoire and 13 other regional markets. Atlanta has also signalled that it may offer Islamic insurance products, which are still a novelty in Côte d’Ivoire despite having a sizable Muslim population.

UP TO THE CHALLENGE: Increased competition can be good for consumers by driving down prices and spurring product innovation; however, it can also encourage companies to take financial risks, to operate without sufficient capital or to provide insurance at unsustainably low prices, leading to default on the part of insurers. “In previous years, the insurance sector suffered greatly from service providers that did not fulfil their obligations, which resulted in reduced consumer confidence in the industry. Despite aggressive efforts to clean out the offenders, trust has not completely been regained,” Fructueux Tétiali, CEO of SAAR Assurance, told OBG.

To counter the negative effects that can come with an overly competitive environment, regulatory changes, most notably the phased increase in the minimum social capital requirement, are expected to weed out some of the smaller and financially weaker players over the coming years (see analysis).

Regulatory Framework

Although policymaking related to the sector is the responsibility of the Insurance Department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF), Côte d’Ivoire is also part of CIMA, the regional insurance body that issues regulation and steers enforcement efforts for its 14 member countries. Since the signing of its founding treaty in 1992 and the establishment of its first insurance code in 1995, CIMA has overseen the regulatory implementation and enforcement of insurance rules 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 objectives are to standardise national insurance legislation and regulations across the region, to coordinate the surveillance of insurance companies and to manage the professional training of African insurance administrators.

In recent years substantial reforms made to the insurance code by CIMA have included prohibiting the issuance of insurance on credit, increasing minimum capital requirements to boost solvency among insurance firms, and reducing the limits to risks that can be reallocated to foreign reinsurers.

While a number of insurance regulations remain within the remit of national authorities – such as the activities for which holding insurance is obligatory – market observers in Côte d’Ivoire also see areas where CIMA could play a larger role. “One valuable initiative would be if the authorities established a central register of insurance claims. This could help insurers better evaluate risk and clamp down on fraudulent claims,” Mamadou told OBG.

Facing Difficulties

Having run into financial challenges, two Ivorian insurance companies were sanctioned by the Regional Insurance Control Commission, the supervisory body of CIMA, and placed under provisional administration: La Loyale Assurances in 2015 and Tropical Société d’Assurances (TSA) in 2016. After a number of difficult years La Loyale, which opened in 2003, was placed under surveillance for overextending its financial obligations. In 2014 the firm’s ability to cover its required regulatory financial commitments had fallen to 69%, down from 110% in 2013, and well below the required 100%. In January 2018 it was announced the government would be selling 21.54% of the stakes in La Loyale held by public banks. TSA was sanctioned due to financial mismanagement, which had led to a CFA3.6bn (€5.4m) shortfall of its required regulatory commitments.

Auto Insurance

Drivers in Côte d’Ivoire are required to purchase responsabilité civile (liability insurance) to cover damages caused to others. Given that it is one of the only obligatory insurances mandated by law and seeing as compliance is regularly enforced at police checkpoints, auto coverage has traditionally been the backbone of Ivorian insurance, accounting for 20.1% of all premiums in 2016. That same year auto premiums reached CFA61.3bn (€92m) in sales, with liability insurance comprising 49.2% of that figure. The auto segment was also the principal driver in non-life premiums overall, posting growth of 13.2% for the year, and accounting for 35.7% of the total segment share, up from 34.4% in 2015.

Speaking to local press, Roger Eugène Johnson Boa, president of the ASA-CI, credited this strong performance partly to “efforts to raise awareness of public insurance obligations on the part of insurance company managers, and the Automobile Guarantee Fund”, which provides equitable compensation for the damage caused to third parties by motorists.

Speaking on the efficacy of enforcing current regulations, Habib Coulibaly Niennenkariga, CEO of CECC Assurance, told OBG, “In theory, insurance products other than car insurance are mandatory in Côte d’Ivoire. For example, construction insurance is compulsory as per Article 1792 of the civil code; however, these directives aren’t widely enforced. The authorities must do more to communicate and apply current industry regulations.”

Health Insurance

As disposable incomes among the middle class have risen in recent years, purchasing private health insurance has become increasingly more popular. After auto insurance, health and accident coverage is the second-largest non-life segment and the fastest-growing, accounting for 27.6% of all premiums. The implementation of tax incentives for those who take out health coverage in 2006 has helped underpinned this expansion; however, the market is typically driven by employers purchasing group policies on behalf of their employees, rather than individual buyers on the open market.

Regardless, the segment continued its solid progress in recent years, growing by 8.9% to reach CFA47.4bn (€71.1m) in 2016. “As the fastest expanding segment today, health insurance provides the most potential for growth,” Samaké Vakaramoko, CEO of Scconas Assurances, told OBG. “However, a complete rehabilitation of public health care facilities is required if the system is going to cater to the growing needs of the population,” he added.

UNIVERSAL CARE: Significant changes are expected, however, as the government prepares to roll out universal health insurance (UHI) from 2018 onwards to provide low-cost health coverage to all citizens. To oversee the project, the National Health Insurance Fund (Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Maladie, CNAM) was inaugurated in January 2015. CNAM offers two programmes: the main programme through which enrollees pay CFA1000 (€1.50) per month for basic coverage, and a smaller subsidised scheme for the lower socioeconomic brackets. During the pilot phase launched in late 2014, UHI was first offered to students and to workers in public and private sector employment. By mid-2017 there were already approximately 650,000 people enrolled.

While premiums for private health insurance are relatively high, this has not traditionally been among the most profitable segments from the point of view of insurers, given the large number of claims and the prevalence of fraud. Although performance improved in 2016, it was still a loss-making segment across the industry as a whole. “For insurers, the new UHI system could be a double-edged sword,” Daniel Diallo, secretary general of ASA-CI, told OBG. “Added surveillance against fraudulent claims should boost profitability; however, because there will be an accessible alternative to private health insurance, it could also hurt the sales of these products”, he added.

Other Non-Life Players

Following behind auto and health is property insurance, which includes fire and damage cover, accounting for 18.3% of all nonlife premiums in 2016, and transport with a 10.7% share. Property was among the weaker performing segments in 2016, with premiums up only 1.7% to reach CFA31.4bn (€47.1m), while transport premiums fell by 4.5% to CFA17.4bn (€26.1m). This setback was attributed to increased competition for the Port of Abidjan from other regional ports, which cut into the maritime sub-segment of transport insurance, a key source of funds in the Ivorian market. By contrast, the best-performing non-life segment was the risks and miscellaneous damages sub-segment, which registered premium growth of 21.9% to reach CFA8.2bn (€12.3m), accounting for a 4.7% share of all non-life premiums by value. Meanwhile, the small but fast-growing public liability insurance segment, which accounted for only 3.5% of non-life premiums by value, grew by 20.1% in 2016 to CFA6.2bn (€9.3m).

Life Insurance

Life insurance is comprised of individual and collective policies, which made up a respective 51.5% and 49.5% of the segment in 2016. Over the year, the value of individual policies grew by 5.9% to reach CFA68.2bn (€102.3m). Of this, 59.5% was related to savings, 34.1% to mixed products and 5.8% to pure life insurance. Collective policies, which are defined as group coverage entered into by employers to provide insurance for their workers, grew by 17.4% in 2016 to reach CFA64.3bn (€96.5m) and were the single greatest source of insurance premium growth in nominal terms across all life and non-life segments for the year. Savings products comprised 58.3% of collective policies, followed by pure life insurance (27%) and mixed products (3.4%). Paid benefits for the segment as a whole came to CFA92.9bn (€139.4m) in 2016, up 16.9% on the previous year, and amounted to 70.1% of total collected life premiums.

Claims & Fraud

According to the ASA-CI, total claims reached CFA180.6bn (€270.9m) in 2016, up marginally from CFA179.8bn (€269.7m) in 2015. With total premiums having advanced 9.15%, this means that claims as a share of premiums fell from 64.9% in 2015 to 59.9% in 2016. The share of claims in the life segment remained relatively stable; therefore, improvements came about almost exclusively because of changes in the non-life segment. Pay-outs in the non-life segment fell 12.3% to CFA68.7bn (€103.1m) for the year, from CFA78.3bn (€117.5m) in 2015, even as non-life premiums increased by 7.6%. This means that claims as a share of premiums in the non-life segment progressed significantly, from 49% in 2015 to 40% in 2016. This, in turn, was galvanised by advancements across the majority of non-life sub-segments, with the exception of fire and other damages.

One of the traditional criticisms of the sector is that insurers are slow to pay out on claims. “The industry has more work to do if it wants to win the confidence and trust of the people, but doing so will help increase insurance penetration,” Diallo told OBG. “One way of doing this is to pay claims in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, there have been cases where firms have been slow to pay out, which hurts the reputation of the industry as a whole. The situation has been getting better, but there is still some room for improvement. This is a priority for the insurers’ association in coming years,” he added.

Likewise, fraudulent claims remain a big concern for insurers, particularly in the auto, health and property segments. “Fraud is a big problem in the country. Often, fires in buildings or damaged vehicles turn out not to have been caused by accidents. Sometimes the same building may have been insured two or three times against fire damage,” Patricia Gotta, former CFO at Allianz Côte d’Ivoire TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS: Although financial technology (fintech) has revolutionised the banking sector in many African countries – including Côte d’Ivoire’s – e-insurance and mobile technology still have yet to make a significant impact on insurance provision. However, fierce competition for market share has seen an increasing number of insurance companies turning to fintech to gain an edge, while a number of life insurance players have already begun providing micro-insurance products via mobile platforms.

According to local media reports, by the third quarter of 2017 there were 32.2m active mobile phone subscriptions in the country with a mobile penetration rate of 125.92%, indicating substantial room for growth in e-insurance and mobile-based solutions. While insurance products are available for online purchase, many providers still limit their services essentially to advertising, providing quotes, billing and claims processing. “In many ways, the insurance market in Côte d’Ivoire is still very traditional. It has been slow to adopt new technologies or introduce bespoke products,” Mamadou told OBG. “It’s important that insurers look to other countries for inspiration, but it is equally important that ideas are adapted to the Ivorian market. It doesn’t work well when they are carbon copied from a different country. E-insurance is a good example of a product that could work much better with dedicated Ivorian products.”

Although there are signs that the industry is beginning to embrace fintech. In October 2017 the first African Insurance Fair opened in Abidjan. Included in the objectives of the three-day conference was promotion of e-insurance products.

Micro-Insurance

Mobile operators and underwriters now offer products as relevant as accidental death/funeral expenses coverage bundled with mobile communications services. But smaller property protection micro-insurance schemes are also arising. Already, some micro-insurance products targeting low-income earners have been made available through the main mobile money platforms whereby clients can pay their premium monthly from their mobile phone. Telecoms providers include France’s Orange Money, and South African firms MTN and Moov (see Banking chapter).

A number of insurance firms are getting on board. NSIA teamed up with MTN to release the NAF Mobile service in 2014, which provides up to CFA250,000 (€375) towards funeral expenses in the event of the policyholder’s death. Sunu Vie collaborated with Orange in 2016 to offer life assurance products up to CFA500,000 (€750). Similarly, Allianz Vie allows its clients to pay their premiums monthly through MTN for policies valued up to CFA1m (€1500). For its part, Atlantique Assurance Vie has partnered with Moov to provide the Moov-Prévoyance, which covers costs associated with death or injury in the event of a traffic accident for a monthly premium of CFA400 (€0.60). Meanwhile, Atlantic Microfinance For Africa (AMIFA), launched its latest product in February 2017; AMIFA Reconfort Accident covers policyholders for workplace accidents on contracts ranging in cost from CFA2500 (€3.75) to CFA5500 (€8.25) per month.

However, while the supply of micro-insurance products has been steadily increasing, demand remains limited by the constrained disposable income of Ivorian households. In addition, established insurance companies can be reluctant to invest time and money into the segment, as it is unclear whether or not the sector is profitable. “Micro-insurance is gaining ground, but the costs associated with providing insurance to the lowest income segments of the population remain too expensive for traditional insurance companies,” Ibrahima Cherif, CEO of Génération Nouvelle d’Assurance Côte d’Ivoire, told OBG.

Reinsurance

The two largest reinsurers in the sector, CICA-RE and African Re, are both intra-governmental reinsurers. With an 80% share of the Ivorian market, Africa Re is by far the biggest player. Set up in 1976, Africa Re is owned by 41 member countries of the African Union (33.6%), 111 African insurance and reinsurance firms (32.9%), the African Development Bank (8.2%) and four non-African investors (25.4%).

Holding a 6.4% share of the market, CICA-RE was established in 1981 and is the CIMA region’s reinsurer. The majority of the company is owned by 12 CIMA countries, which hold a combined 65.24% of shares. Other stakeholders include insurance firms operating in the region, the West African Development Bank and the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund.

Other reinsurers have established themselves in Côte d’Ivoire as an entry point into francophone West Africa. Aveni RE Assurance was set up in 2004 to focus on West and Central African insurance sectors, while Tunisian reinsurer Tunis Re opened its offices in the country in 2012. These firms were followed by Nigeria-based Continental RE and Kenya RE, which set-up shop in 2014. Sen-RE and NCA Re are also present in the market, as is Société Central de Réassurance, part of Morocco-based Caisse de Dépôts et de Gestion, which opened an office in 2014.

In early 2016 Reinsurance Solutions, one of the largest private brokers in Africa, became the first reinsurance broker to operate in Côte d’Ivoire. The entrance of the Mauritian firm is seen as a step forward for the industry, as the majority of global insurers go through brokers for reinsurance services.

Reinsurance Reform Agenda

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 CIMA zone.

As of June of that year, the proportion of risks that could be reinsured outside the region without prior authorisation from the MoEF was reduced from 75% to 50%. Exceptions include risks relating to ships, trains and airplanes, which can still be insured up to 100% abroad. Conversely, reinsuring small-scale risks such as health and accidents with firms outside the CIMA zone, which could previously be covered up to 75%, is now completely prohibited.

Given that London remains the centre of the global reinsurance market, and two-thirds of CIMA-wide reinsurance is placed abroad, this regulatory change could potentially see more reinsurance premiums being retained in domestic markets. According Finactu, the changes to Article 308 could result in an additional CFA68bn (€102m) increase in premiums collected by reinsurance firms based in the CIMA region. To compare, CIMA reinsurers recorded sales totalling CFA521bn (€781.5m) in 2016.

Some market observers think the impact may have been overestimated. “Many of the existing reinsurance players from outside the CIMA region are likely to work around the regulatory change by entering regional markets, including by acquiring or partnering with local reinsurers. NSIA has already teamed up with Swiss Re, for example,” Gotta told OBG.

There are also the added questions regarding enforcement, as the reinsurance industry is of a global nature. Fully implementing the requirement that 50% of premiums be domiciled in the CIMA region could pose challenges, particularly given the retrocession policies designed to mitigate risk and uncertainties by leveraging an international environment.

Pensions

Perhaps one of the biggest focuses for policymakers in 2017 was on finalising reforms to the pension system for public servants, including plans to offer pension coverage to the majority of workers who are self-employed, whether working in the formal or informal sector (see analysis). While greatly increasing the number of Ivorians with social insurance, the availability of such state-run alternatives could slow the take-up of pension and health insurance offerings of private firms. Another challenge to growing this segment was identified by Mamadou, who explained that “because tax incentives on private pension contributions are capped, firms are discouraged from increasing their social investments.”

At present, private sector pension products are targeted at high income earners, a dynamic that could be reinforced when the National Social Insurance Fund offers a funded supplementary pension scheme for high-income self-employed workers.

Outlook

The positive developments taking place in Côte d’Ivoire’s economy are driving sector development. From its low base, insurance penetration should continue to increase, thereby encouraging overall expansion. The rollout of universal health and public pension coverage over the coming years means the social security system is set to change in a major way. Moreover, recently implemented regulatory reforms are sure to lead to market consolidation as smaller providers exit or are acquired. With stricter regional insurance rules forcing insurance firms to strengthen their financial positions, non-compliance by providers should be reduced, easing efforts to expand insurance penetration to new pockets of the population.

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2018

Insurance chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2018

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