Cry, the Beloved Country

Emily Holbrook


August 1, 2010

Microinsurance is a popular way for citizens in underdeveloped areas to protect themselves and their property. This type of insurance still remains relatively scarce in some poorer regions, however. Take Africa, for instance. Little more than 2% of Africa's 700 million working poor are covered by insurance, representing an untapped source of social and economic development, according to a new study by the Microinsurance Innovation Facility of the International Labor Office (ILO). Why is there such a shortage? According to Michal Matul, research officer at ILO, the explanation is two-fold. He notes that potential clients do not fully understand insurance and that some have difficulties paying premiums. On the supply side, there are high administrative costs, deficiencies in information technology and a lack of qualified personnel. Though roughly 12 million people benefit from insurance in Southern and Eastern Africa, the remainder of the continent is mostly insurance-free. "It is possible to reach hundreds of millions of low-income people in Africa with microinsurance, but this requires a series of prerequisites, such as a diversity of providers, informed clients who understand the value of microinsurance, innovative distribution channels, and improved efficiency and human resource management."
Emily Holbrook is the founder of Red Label Writing, LLC, a writing, editing and content strategy firm catering to insurance and risk management businesses and publications, and a former editor of Risk Management.