By Amie Sanneh
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Education Conference of the West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA) opened yesterday in Banjul at a local hotel in Kololi.
The meeting under the theme: “Regional Integration Through Uniform Regional Compliance ” brought together WAICA member states from Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gambia.
Mai Fatty, minister of the interior, representing President Adama Barrow said The Gambia is poised to become the fastest growing economy in Africa. “It is a small country but in a relatively, reasonable short period of time, The Gambia is going to be the insurance capital of Africa. The captains of the industry are here and The Gambia is going to be a major offshore centre of insurance,” he said. According to him, with the potential macroeconomic stability that they are stepping into, the Gambia will be the Smiling Coast of many industries that will lead growth, development and progress in Africa.
Commenting on the theme, he said if they are to develop as a regional bloc, they have to harmonise their practices. “The business of insurance is an international one, therefore, there is need for uniform regulation which will promote business sharing and exchanges and consequently facilitate trade and integration within the sub-region,” he said.
He told the participants that it is important to have an in-depth understanding of the unique business processes within member states in order to harmonise their practices effectively. “There is also the need to bear in mind the peculiar nature of various insurance markets such as the governing structures of the various regulatory frameworks,” he noted.
Makaireh Badjan, president of Insurance Association of the Gambia and vice president of WAICA, in his welcoming remarks said the conference is a unique opportunity that allows industry professionals and all other stakeholders to interact, network, share experiences on innovation and opportunities to develop the insurance industry.
Badjan, who is also the Managing Director of Royal Insurance Company Ltd, said the theme is apt and timely considering the fact that insurance is an international business and as such it is appropriate for its practices to be harmonised. “The huge increase in trans-border operations calls for harmonisation of practices. The conference offers a very good opportunity to dialogue and come up with effective and efficient mechanisms that would foster regional integration through harmonisation of our industry practices,” he stated.
For his part, WAICA president, Rotomi Fashola said WAICA believes and supports the regional integration of the head of states and governments of ECOWAS. He added that their annual educational conference has become a forum for advocating for critical developmental issues, especially the regional cooperation agenda for the good of the insurance business and the ultimate benefits of countries in the sub-region. WAICA President described this year’s theme as topical stating that the various presentations will broaden their perspective and instigate resourceful engagement in specific areas.
In her goodwill message, Dr. Perpetua Katepa-Kalala told the insurance officials that their businesses can only grow significantly when the livelihoods of their clients rise to the extent that they can buy their products.
She remarked, “The basic premise is that your companies’ growth and prosperity in the long term is intricately linked with the prosperity of your prospective clients.”
She describes insurance products as key to the sustainable building of resilience among smallholder farmers. “The availability of insurance for production, marketing and all other activities along agricultural value chains will be a key part of solving the issue of resilience,” she said.
According to Madam Katepa-Kalala, they have the knowledge, skills and technology to quickly boost production and teach smallholder farmers how to boost production.
However, she said the biggest challenge is how to do it in such a way that these production systems are resilient in era when the weather is becoming more erratic because of climate change, high level of illiteracy amongst others.
The FAO country Director stressed the need for insurance companies to invest in finding creative and effective insurance solutions to support smallholder actors in agriculture and natural resources.
Speaking on behalf of the governor of Central Bank, the Deputy Governor, Oumie Samba Savage describes the important role of insurance in supporting economic growth and development as more relevant for Africa today than ever before. “The job creation potential resulting from possible savings and investments alone makes insurance a necessity for Africa,” she said.
Commenting on the theme, Madam Samba Savage noted that it is timely as it came in the wake of significant economic progress going on in Africa.
In his welcoming remarks, the Vice President of WAICA, Makaireh Badjan describing the theme as apt, said the AGM is an opportunity for insurance associations to interact and dialogue amongst themselves.
Delivering the vote of thanks, William B. Coker Secretary General/CEO of WAICA in Accra, Ghana, called on the players in the different markets to continue actively supporting their efforts at getting insurance as a stand-alone, examinable subject of studying in the secondary schools curriculum. He said the more the insurance subject is studied, the more awareness is created among the population. “And once the awareness is created that is half the battle of insurance companies fought and won,” he stated.