Morocco hosts one of the most developed insurance industries in Africa. The sector is dominated by nonlife lines, and in particular compulsory car insurance. Plans are in place to make several other forms of insurance compulsory but these have yet to be implemented. Market share is concentrated in the hands of a small number of mostly locally owned firms, although foreign insurance firms are also active in the market and several French firms have gained a substantial portion of local business. At the same time, Moroccan firms are in the midst of an aggressive expansion programme in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Swiss Re Sigma’s World Insurance report, Morocco was the second-largest insurance market in Africa in 2013, with total premiums of $3.18bn, behind South Africa in first place on $54.1bn; it was also the 53rd-largest market in the world. In per capita terms, the kingdom was the fourth-largest insurance market on the continent, with premiums of $96.30 per head in 2013, behind South Africa, Mauritius and Namibia, and the 71stlargest in the world. Life premiums stood at $31 per capita, with non-life premiums at $65 a head. Insurance premiums in 2013 were equivalent to 3.1% of GDP, ranking Morocco first in North Africa, fourth on the continent and 46th worldwide. The kingdom also has among the highest insurance penetration levels in the Arab world, behind only Lebanon with 3.2%.
Dirk De Nil, CEO of Zurich Assurances Maroc, told OBG, “The insurance culture in the country still has some way to go, and when people do purchase insurance, they still care mostly about buying it as cheaply as possible, rather than comparing the level of coverage or the quality of service,” he said.
Premimums & Payments
Total sector turnover stood at Dh26.73bn (€2.91bn) in 2013, up 2.7% in nominal terms from Dh26.02bn (€2.83bn) the previous year, according to the Moroccan Federation of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies (Federation Marocaine des Sociétés d’Assurances et de Ré assurance, FMSAR). Longer-term growth has been stronger, at a compound average growth rate of 6% since 2008. Of industry turnover in 2013, just over two-thirds (67.4%) was accounted for by non-life premiums, with the remainder coming from life and savings products. The life segment does not appear to have been gaining ground, fluctuating between 30% and 33% of total premiums since 2008 without seeing a trend in either direction.
Car insurance premiums dominate the non-life segment, at a value of Dh8.5bn (€925m), or 31.8% of total (life and non-life) premiums in 2013, roughly in line with recent years. Third-party liability cover accounted for the great bulk of car-related premiums, at Dh7.41bn (€806m). The next-largest non-life line was personal accident with Dh3.07bn (€334m), or 11.5% of total insurance premiums, down from around 12.5% between 2008 and 2010. Within the life and savings segment, the most popular product line by far was individual life insurance contracts, which were worth Dh5.19bn (€565m), followed by group products on Dh1.99bn (€217m) and savings products on Dh1.26bn (€137m).
Insurance premiums in the first half of 2014 stood at Dh15.79bn (€1.72bn), up 3% on the same period in 2013. Sales of life insurance and savings products were up 12% to Dh4.6bn (€500m), largely thanks to a 13% rise in sales of life insurance to individual clients, while non-life premium volumes rose by 4.6% to Dh11.19bn (€1.22bn), boosted above all by a 6% increase in car insurance. The total amount paid out by insurance firms to life insurance and savings clients in 2013 stood at Dh6.31bn (€687m) in 2013, up from Dh6.16bn (€670m) in 2012. Payments in the non-life segment were worth Dh9.24bn (€1.01bn), up 2.8% year-on-year (y-o-y). Car insurance pay-outs accounted for 45.4% of the total.
There were 18 insurance and reinsurance companies active in the kingdom in 2013, according to industry regulator the Department of Insurance and Social Welfare (Direction des Assurances et de la Prévoyance Sociale, DAPS). These comprised eight general insurance firms offering both life and non-life lines, three dedicated non-life companies, one dedicated life firm, one dedicated reinsurer, four companies that were focused purely on the assistance market and one credit insurance specialist. There were also 1332 insurance agents and 408 brokers active in the kingdom as of 2013.
Market share is concentrated in the hands of a small number of companies – the four largest firms accounted for 66% of premiums in 2013. This is especially the case in the life market, in which the top four companies accounted for 81% of premiums, though the non-life market is more fragmented, with the largest four firms bringing in 63% of all premiums. According to the FMSAR, the firm with the largest turnover in 2013 was Wafa Assurance – part of the Attijarawafa financial group, which is controlled by the National Society of Investment – with a market share of 21.5%, including 32.8% of the life market and 16.1% of non-life. In second place was RMA Watanya – part of the FinanceCom group – with an 18.1% market share, including 14.5% of the non-life market and 25.6% of life. Next was French insurer Axa’s affiliate, Axa Assurance Maroc, on 13.6%, with 9.9% of the life market and 16.1% of non-life.
Fourth-largest was Saham Assurance, part of the kingdom’s Saham Group, on a market share of 13.1% (4.6% of life and 17.1% of non-life turnover). Saham was also the largest player in the car market in 2013, with segment premiums of Dh1.75bn (€190m).
In life, the largest firms after Wafa Assurance and RMA Watanya were Mutuelle Centrale Marocaine d’Assurance, which is controlled by mutual insurer Mutuelle Agricole Marocaine d’Assurances ( MAMDA), with a share of 11.7%, and La Marocaine Vie, part of France’s Société Générale Group, with 11%.
Total local reinsurance cessions stood at Dh2.37bn (€258m) in 2013, according to DAPS data, up 13% on 2012 and representing 10.5% of national insurance premiums. Some 85% of premiums ceded to reinsurers were non-life lines. State-controlled dedicated reinsurer the Central Reinsurance Society (Société Centrale de Réassurance, SCR) provided reinsurance for Dh1.74bn (€189m) worth of premiums in 2013, down from Dh2.28bn (€248m) in 2012. Foreign reinsurance operations accounted for 8% of the company’s turnover. In January 2014 a previous requirement for firms to cede 10% of their premiums to the SCR was fully scrapped, having gradually been phased out across different insurance lines since 2007 as it conflicted with elements of Morocco’s free trade agreement with the US.
Reinsurance premiums provided by local insurance firms (not including the SCR) stood at Dh131.9m (€14.4m) in 2013, according to FMSAR data, of which Dh123.8m (€13.5m) were non-life. This was down 30% on 2012. However, in the first half of 2014 local commercial reinsurance premiums stabilised, growing 0.8% y-o-y to Dh118m (€12.8m). The largest local commercial provider of reinsurance (again, excluding the SCR) in 2013 was Saham, with premiums of Dh63m (€6.85m), followed by Axa Maroc on Dh42m (€4.57m). Foreign reinsurance companies active in the market during the year numbered 26: 14 European, five African, three American, three Bermudan and one Middle Eastern.
New firms continue to enter the segment. In July 2014 MAMDA and two foreign partners, La Centrale de Reassurance Mutuel of France and US firm PartnerRe, received regulatory approval to establish a reinsurer, MAMDA Re. The firm, which will have capital of Dh1bn (€109m), will specialise in the agricultural reinsurance segment in Morocco and other African countries, and will have Casa Finance City status, meaning that at least 75% of its business will need to be conducted outside of the kingdom.
The near-offshore status of MAMDA Re’s business is not unique. In keeping with the wider expansion into Africa by Moroccan companies, several industry players have established a strong presence across the continent, and other companies are seeking to emulate their successes.
The most recent major acquisition by a Moroccan company in Africa was the November 2014 purchase by the Saham Group of a 40% stake in Nigerian non-life firm Unitrust Insurance. This followed Saham’s acquisition the previous June of a 66% stake in the Rwandan insurance firm CORAR. Saham has stakes in around 40 firms across 20 African countries, including in the Colina Group of insurance firms, which is active in Central and West Africa and which it acquired in 2010, as well as Angola’s GA Seguros and a controlling stake in Kenya’s Mercantile Insurance Company, both of which it acquired in 2013.
In March 2014 RMA Watanya launched its own expansion programme, in an effort to extend services on the continent, by gaining a 40% stake in Belife Insurance, an Ivoirian insurer which also has affiliates in Cameroon and Togo. The company said it intended to establish a presence in 10 countries across the continent, generating combined premiums of $400m-$500m, by the end of the decade.
Moroccan insurance companies are also engaging in greenfield investment in Africa by setting up local subsidiaries from scratch. In September 2014 Wafa Assurance received permission from the InterAfrican Conference on Insurance Markets, which regulates insurance in 14 countries in Francophone West and Central Africa, to establish life and non-lif e insurance companies in Senegal.
The company will use local subsidiaries of Attijariwafa Bank – a unit of the Attijariwafa finance group, of which Wafa is also a part – as the main distribution channels. In 2012 the firm took a 75% share in Ivoirian insurer Solidarité Africaine d’Assurance, and it also has subsidiaries in Tunisia and Cameroon.
The Insurance Law was passed in 2002 and is in the process of being revised. In January 2014 the government approved the creation of the Insurance and Social Welfare Regulating Authority (Autorité de Controle des Assurances et Prévoyance Sociale, ACAPS), an independent body that will take over most regulatory activities from the DAPS. Before ACAPS becomes operational, a law specifying the mode of appointment of the heads of such authorities needs to be passed. The creation of ACAPS – which will be funded by compulsory contributions from insurance firms – will provide the regulator with greater independence from the government, and split oversight duties from sanctions for firms violating market regulations. Another important regulatory change on the horizon is the government’s plan to gradually render the sector compliant with Solvency II – the EU’s new solvency standards for the industry, agreed upon at the end of 2013 – while taking into account local market characteristics. The regulator changes are expected to increase the amount of capital that firms are required to have, and expand the risks taken into account when calculating solvency ratios beyond straightforward insurance pay-out risks to include others, such as market and investment risks.
Need for Change
Insurers observed that there is some scope for further reform in the existing regulations. “There is a need for a fundamental overhaul of the sector’s regulatory framework, owing to the various changes introduced gradually over the past few years, giving rise to a few inconsistencies in the principles which govern the sector’s regulation. These inconsistencies have made the sector’s regulation to be out of synch with the rapidly developing economic and social environment of the country,” Taoufik Drhimeur, the vice-president of RMA Watanya, told OBG. “Despite the recent improvements introduced into texts governing the presentation of the insurance operations, distribution remains heavily regulated; for example, there are restrictions on who can become an agent, and there is no concept of wholesale distribution,” he told OBG, arguing that distribution channels as they currently stand are not sophisticated enough to allow for strong growth in the sector.
However, the government appears to have listened to such concerns. In March 2015 the DAPS published a draft amendment to the Insurance Law that is aimed at partially liberalising insurance distribution by, for example, relaxing the requirements for becoming an insurance agent. The changes will also affect regulations on internet sales, which are set to rise substantially over the long-term.
“The internet is mainly used by young people, who aren’t the main buyers of insurance in the kingdom,” Drhimeur said. “However, in 10 years’ time the situation is likely to be completely transformed.”
There has also been criticism of the changes in the 2015 Finance Law, which limited to the proportion of their income that Moroccans were allowed to invest in pensions products on a tax-deductible basis. “Changes in fiscal rules and incentives damage confidence in the regulatory regime; savings vehicles are long-term products, and a lack of stability can undermine people’s plans and alter their expectations by making them worried there will be further changes in the future,” Drhimeur told OBG. In addition, he said that a lack of clarity over the government’s plans for pension reform represented a significant challenge for the savings industry.
In 2011 the industry drafted sector development strategy, the Contract Programme, which called for reforms to the sector, such as expanding the number of compulsory forms of insurance cover to include natural disaster, professional civil liability and two types of construction, with longer-term plans to extend this to multi-risk home insurance. Additionally, the plan included the creation of new tax incentives aimed at stimulating demand for savings and pension products. Among the targets published in the strategy are the doubling of premiums to at least Dh40bn (€4.35bn) by 2015, which appears unlikely to be met.
The government accepted the strategy and drafted several new regulations, but many have yet to be put in place. The government has so far even failed to publish legislation establishing the new forms of compulsory insurance. A draft amendment to the Insurance Law that renders all-risk construction insurance and 10-year professional civil liability insurance compulsory was passed to the secretary-general of the government in late 2013; in an interview with local press published in November 2014, the CEO of the FMSAR, Hassan Boubrik, said he was hopeful that the law would be passed to the government for review “very soon”.
Another change that the draft amendment will bring to the market is the authorisation of sharia-compliant insurance ( takaful). According to media reports, the draft law requires firms seeking to offer takaful to set up separate affiliates dedicated to the segment. According to press reports, at least initially, it will only allow takaful firms to sell to the retail market. The government has also indicated that while foreign firms will be allowed to take a stake in Moroccan takaful companies, participation will be capped at 49%. Plans to authorise takaful firms have been in the pipeline for some time, but the coming into effect in February 2015 of a new banking law authorising the creation of Islamic banks (see Banking chapter) has boosted hopes that the segment will be up and running soon.
As in many emerging markets, fraud can be a challenge. According to figures cited by local media in February 2015, fraudulent claims account for around a third of the total value of claims by the public transport sector in Morocco, in comparison to a global average of around 10%. In addition to fictitious claims of accidents, the report said that firms sometimes exaggerate the number of passengers on board during actual accidents, thereby claiming additional payments to cover compensation costs. The newspaper also claimed that as many as 70% of medical claims by passengers injured in such accidents are false or exaggerated.
“Outright fraud, in terms of claims for incidents that have not taken place, is not really a major problem, rather it is more common for clients to try to push up the value of payouts,” said Drhimeur. “The industry is working to combat the problem, but there are barriers. For example, the private automobile segment is not yet well-structured and the cost of parts varies widely, facilitating fraud.”
Bancassurance was authorised in 2005. The banking penetration rate has grown rapidly in recent years, exposing more and more Moroccans to the sales channel. Furthermore, the country’s branch network is continuing to expand rapidly (see Banking chapter). The bancassurance channel is set to receive a further boost in the form of draft amendments to the Insurance Law published in March 2015, which expand the range of insurance that banks are authorised to sell to include, among others, multi-risk home insurance.
Industry growth is expected to continue, but the pace of expansion will depend largely on regulatory factors, such as whether and when the authorities make additional products compulsory, as outlined in the Contract Programme.
“The year 2015 will be one of continuity, with no major changes likely to take place regarding the competitive landscape,” said Drhimeur. “The Moroccan market is a healthy one and the ingredients are there for it to develop much faster, providing the problems affecting the industry are addressed.”
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