In recent years Morocco’s insurance sector has consolidated its strong position, with the growing middle class, tax advantages and fierce competition between bancassurers giving a notable dynamism to the life insurance segment. Morocco is the second-largest insurance market in Africa in terms of gross premium, and ranks highly for both insurance density and penetration. Furthermore, regulatory reforms are helping to cement the strong financial position of insurance players and broaden the range of obligatory and discretionary insurance products available. As the insurance sector matures, its players are increasingly looking to international markets to grow their businesses.
Structure & Oversight
As part of a major revamp of the insurance sector and its regulatory framework, the national insurance code was updated with the passage of Law No. 59-13 in August 2016. The key change was the transition to risk-based solvency regulations, however, it also laid the foundation for the eventual extension of mandatory insurance to cover new activities, as well as the introduction of sharia-compliant takaful (Islamic insurance) products.
The Supervisory Authority of Insurance and Social Welfare (Autorité de Contrôle des Assurances et de la Prévoyance Sociale, ACAPS), established under Law No. 64-12 in 2016, is the autonomous regulator tasked with the oversight and regulation of the insurance sector. Its core responsibilities are to carry out surveillance on the solvency of insurers and reinsurers, ensure that insurers abide by current sectoral regulations and address any complaints about their business practices. ACAPS also works to promote financial education, and takes part in the Committee for Coordination and Surveillance of Systemic Risks, an inter-institutional committee created under banking law with the purpose of safeguarding financial stability.
ACAPS has been working to implement the new solvency regulations for a number of years. “The EU’s Solvency II framework is the international benchmark, but this has been adapted to the market realities in Morocco,” Othman El Alamy, secretary-general of ACAPS, told OBG. “Pillar 2, on governance, is ready and Pillar 1, which covers the quantitative aspects, is nearly there. We are engaging with stakeholders in order to ensure its smooth implementation,” he said. El Alamy went on to emphasise that the years ahead will require Moroccan insurers to reduce their large exposures to domestic equity investments. “We are going to phase this in very gradually to avoid any market dislocation,” he added.
Peformance & Size
Total insurance premium in 2018 came to Dh41.3bn ($4.3bn), of which nonlife insurance made up roughly 55.5%, life insurance comprised 44% and reinsurance accounted for the remaining 0.5%. In 2018 insurance premium in Morocco amounted to less than 10% of that in continental leader South Africa ($48.2bn), but more than double that seen in Kenya ($2.1bn), which was third in the region. Annual growth of Morocco’s total premium was around 6.1% in 2018, a marked slowdown from the 11% growth registered in 2017 and 15.4% in 2016.
Non-life insurance premium growth accelerated modestly, from 4.7% in 2017 to 5.3% in 2018, the slowdown largely due to life insurance premium growth stabilising in 2018. The latter slowed sharply from 35.4% in 2017 to 7.1% in 2018. In the first half of 2019 total insurance premium amounted to Dh24.8bn ($2.6bn), an 8.2% increase from 2018, representing an appreciable acceleration in growth. The pick-up in premium growth, was evident in both life and non-life segments, increasing to 9.9% and 7%, respectively.
In 2018 there were 19 insurers operating in Morocco, a number of which represent dual subsidiaries of larger financial groups. The five largest insurance entities collectively comprise 69% of the market: Wafa Assurance (20.2%), Royale Marocaine d’Assurance (RMA, 15.8%), Saham Assurance (12.6%), Mutuelle Taamine Chaabi (10.3%) and AXA Assurance Maroc (10.2%). The life insurance segment is more highly concentrated, with the top three of the total 10 firms making up approximately two-thirds of the market: Wafa Assurance (25.3%), Mutuelle Taamine Chaabi (23.4%) and RMA (18.4%). Another prominent player in the country’s life insurance segment is La Marocaine Vie, which has a market share of around 9.5%.
Competition is stiffer in the non-life segment, where five of the country’s 18 firms share two-thirds of the market: Saham Assurance (18%), Wafa Assurance (15%), RMA (13.8%), AXA Assurance Maroc (11.9%) and Atlanta (8.4%). Some 18 of the 19 providers offer non-life insurance products, while Mutuelle Taamine Chaabi is the only life insurance player that does not also offer non-life products. The only non-life segment in which Marocaine Vie operates is health insurance.
While most non-life insurers offer a full spectrum of insurance products, there are six niche players that specialise in credit insurance: AXA Assistance Maroc, Coface Maroc, Euler Hermes, Maroc Assistance, Saham Assistance and Wafa IMA Assistance. Each of these, with the exception of AXA Assistance Maroc, also offer a number of reinsurance products.
In Morocco, as in many other countries, it is obligatory to insure motor vehicles. Until recently, however, mandatory insurance had been relatively limited. As of early January 2020 mandatory insurance was extended to two additional areas: catastrophic risk, such as terrorism, and large-scale construction projects. “Insurance to hedge against natural disasters is a necessary first step to boost the sector,” Abdelhamid Habboubi, CEO of consulting firm EPEGA, told OBG. “Authorities have to accelerate the process and implement measures that will help broaden the insurance base,” he said. While industrial facilities were covered up to 90%, ACAPS estimated that commercial premises were covered by just 15-20% and residences by as little as 3-4%.
In practice, the state has been considered a last resort insurer and faces social demand for restitution in the event of disasters. The goal of mandatory insurance is to shift this financial burden onto the private sector. In order to extend coverage to those of limited means, a solidarity fund, funded through a 1% levy on all insurance premium, is being established to indemnify them against injury or loss of residence.
Meanwhile, obligatory civil liability insurance covering medium-sized housing construction projects will likely be rolled out in early 2020. Once the regulation is in effect, it is expected that all residential construction projects over three storeys or 800 sq metres will need to be covered. Such insurance is already available on the market, but it has not been obligatory.
During the first half of 2019 non-life insurance premium amounted to Dh14.3bn ($1.5bn), or 57.8% of the total. Automobile insurance remained the top non-life segment, representing approximately 47.4% of all non-life premium and posting a year-onyear (y-o-y) nominal growth of 7.9%. About 82.8% of automobile insurance premium take the form of the mandatory insurance, while the remainder is discretionary. However, the automobile segment has been impacted by rising claims, with fraud believed to play a large part in the issue. “Insurers are taking automobile insurance fraud seriously. For example, they are creating databases and other mechanisms to identify when multiple claims for the same incident are made through more than one insurer,” El Alamy told OBG.
Health and accident insurance, meanwhile, is the second-largest non-life segment, accounting for 16% of non-life premium. The segment grew by 9% in the first half of 2019. Workplace accident insurance accounts for a further 10.5% of non-life premium, with y-o-y growth lagging somewhat at 2.9%. Of the main insurance segments, fire insurance experienced the strongest y-o-y growth, with 17.2%, and its share of non-life premium increased to 8.8%.
Meanwhile, life insurance outperformed life reinsurance in the first half of 2019, increasing by 9.9% to reach 42.2% of total premium. Individual life policies represented 45.7% of life premium, posting y-o-y growth of 8.1%. Savings products have become increasingly attractive, and capitalisation was the most dynamic life segment, with its 16.7% growth making up the largest share of overall insurance premium growth in absolute terms – greater even than the absolute increase in auto insurance premium.
With the introduction of sharia-compliant takaful products, Morocco follows the lead of a number of other countries with majority Muslim populations. The relevant legislation was enacted in July 2019, with both authorities and market players working to launch the kingdom’s first takaful products in 2020. However, the implementing regulations and accounting framework were still being ironed out in late 2019.
According to the new law, Moroccan insurers must legally establish separate entities in order to provide takaful products. Unlike with participatory banks in the country, existing insurers cannot simply establish a sharia-compliant window for these types of products.
Market players, however, remain sceptical. While the availability of takaful insurance products is expected to meet a niche market, it is not expected to become a mainstream product or drive significant premium growth. However, the advent of takaful is expected to have a notable impact on the life insurance segment as people increasingly take advantage of sharia-compliant savings products. A number of opportunities have been identified for participatory banks to cross-sell credit insurance products to their borrowers. Although only a limited number of takaful providers are expected to become fully operational in 2020, when combined with participatory banking (see Banking chapter) and the planned introduction of sukuk (Islamic bonds) investment instruments (see Capital Markets chapter), this is nonetheless an important first step towards a comprehensive sharia-compliant financial system in Morocco.
Insurance density in Morocco reached $127 per capita in 2018, less than one-sixth that of South Africa ($840) and under onethird that of Namibia ($390), but significantly ahead of Tunisia ($75) – the next-largest insurance market in Africa for this metric. With insurance penetration sitting at just 3.8% of GDP, Morocco places behind South Africa (12.9%), Namibia (7.3%) and Zimbabwe (3.9%). South Africa, however, can be considered somewhat of an outlier; even the UK and the US have insurance penetration rates of just 10.6% and 7.1%, respectively. Nonetheless, Morocco places far ahead of the next-highest African country, Kenya, which has a penetration rate of just 2.4%. These regional variations can be explained in large part by the relative maturity of some countries’ life insurance segments.
Life insurance penetration amounted to 1.8% of GDP in 2018, far below the 10.3% seen in South Africa and the 5.2% in Namibia, but nonetheless nearly double the 0.96% of GDP recorded in Kenya. The non-life segment, however, is far more uniform across the region. Penetration in Morocco reached 2.1% of GDP in 2018 – equal to Namibia, behind South Africa (2.6%) and ahead of Kenya (1.42%). Therefore, significant potential remains for further organic growth in both the life and non-life segments. The decade up to 2030, however, is unlikely to experience the same rapid rate of growth seen between 2000 and 2020.
In 2014 around 41% of the population took advantage of various insurance products, while roughly the same proportion had never used any formal financial product. Although progress has been made in recent years, there remains significant scope for financial inclusion efforts to drive insurance premium growth. With this in mind, the authorities included the promotion of insurance and micro-insurance among the objectives of the new National Financial Inclusion Strategy. “We know that cultural and religious issues are among the barriers to people taking out insurance contracts,” El Alamy told OBG. “We are participating in an inter-institutional working group on micro-insurance as part of the implementation effort for the National Financial Inclusion Strategy. At the moment, micro-insurers face the same regulatory framework as mainstream insurers, which can be a binding constraint. We are looking at ways to minimise regulatory obstacles to micro-insurance,” he said.
The availability of new products like takaful, in addition to the increased prevalence of tailored micro-insurance products, should see greater take-up of insurance contracts across the population and help drive premium growth over the coming years.
Although traditional channels still command Morocco’s insurance sector, important investments in online and digital platforms suggests that these channels are set to be increasingly important in the future. “Thus far, traditional distribution channels have remained prominent,” Bachir Baddou, general director of the Moroccan Federation for Insurance and Reinsurance Companies, told OBG. “Consumers have more confidence dealing with brokers or agents than with automated systems. Although there has been a delayed take-off in digital channels in Morocco, but we are likely to see those trends take off in other countries too,” he said.
As of early 2020 there were approximately 2200 insurance brokers and 1800 agents operating in the country, all of whom were required to pass a professional exam. Their proliferation in recent years has ramped up competition, raising concerns about oversaturation. In the auto insurance segment, meanwhile, specialist firms sell directly to clients. Brokers and agents also face stiff competition from bancassurers, who benefit from economies of scale and a large clientele to whom they can cross-sell insurance products. They are particularly active in life insurance and are increasing their market share in non-life segments. The rise of digital insurance channels is likely to herald further challenges in the years ahead.
“Regulating online and digital distributional channels represents new challenges, but we have the opportunity to follow the lead of countries like Kenya, where this has already been a big success, especially in micro-insurance,” El Alamy told OBG. “We are also seeing some leading market players take advantage of the correspondent banking model to sell insurance products through dense branch networks. This can play an important role, particularly in rural areas,” he said.
Between 2015 and 2020 was a challenging period for Moroccan reinsurers, after authorities phased out the obligation for insurers to channel 10% of total premium revenue to domestic reinsurers in 2014. Reinsurance premium subsequently dropped and have been slow to recover. The impact was particularly acute for the formerly state-owned Société Centrale de Réassurance (SCR), which had long been a key player in the segment. In 2018 the SCR recorded premium of Dh901m ($93.9m), while the seven other players in the reinsurance segment collectively issued approximately Dh213m ($22.3m).
However, there is some optimism in the sector that there might be brighter times to come. “The introduction of mandatory insurance for catastrophic risks like natural disasters and terrorism is expected to generate up to $70m in extra premium,” Mohamed Nali, regional director at Africa Re Maghreb, told OBG. “This is a great opportunity for reinsurers as well, since about 90% of this amount is expected to be reinsured,” he said. Similarly, the extension of mandatory insurance to medium-sized residential construction projects is expected to yield knock-on demand for reinsurance, as insurers increasingly seek to lay off risk.
With sub-par macroeconomic performance anticipated to persist over the medium term, the main avenues for growth in the insurance sector are likely to come from the life insurance segment as well as from those non-life segments where contracting insurance is being made obligatory. In the first half of 2019 inflation-adjusted premium growth picked up to nearly three times the projected real GDP growth rate for the year, suggesting that insurance penetration should continue to improve.
Although Morocco has been somewhat slower to adopt digital distribution channels for insurance products than a number of the leading regions in Africa, heavy investment by market players in their online and mobile platforms suggest that this will become increasingly important in the years to come. This has the potential to improve financial inclusion, drive premium growth and reduce operating costs, thereby increasing insurers’ profit margins.
In terms of investment, phased reductions in the ceiling for exposure to the domestic equity market are likely to prove challenging for insurers, as the selection of alternative bankable assets with similarly high yields is limited. Meanwhile, leading players – particularly the bancassurers – have established extensive footprints elsewhere in Africa. These somewhat less mature markets have shown the potential to become increasingly important profit centres, with higher profit margins and even greater scope for organic premium growth. In addition, the combination of tax incentives and the clustering effect at Casablanca Finance City is expected to further support the trend towards regionalisation, helping transform Morocco into a major continental player for insurance and reinsurance.