Protectionism may backfire across Sub Saharan African insurance markets

Protectionism may backfire across Sub Saharan African insurance markets

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By Charlotte O’Connoll

Protectionism in Africa’s insurance markets may backfire and actually restrict market development, according to a new report from AM Best.

It said an open and competitive reinsurance market is vital for risk-transfer and market development.

Salman Siddiqui, AM Best associate director, said: “Excessive protectionism, such as the discouragement of cross-border reinsurance placements, may have major negative implications as it creates an unnecessary exposure of national assets and government funds to claims from catastrophes or man-made disasters, as well as to an accumulation of losses. On the other hand, the availability of reinsurance capital from a diversified international panel brings down risk-transfer costs and helps to disperse risk.”

The Role of Protectionism in Emerging EMEA Insurance Markets focuses on the impact of measures particularly in the insurance markets of Sub Saharan Africa, among other emerging market regions. It highlights the risks of protectionism actions and possible implications to the financial strength of (re)insurers operating in these markets.

Valeria Ermakova, senior financial analyst, said: “Placing risks primarily within national borders creates a problem of potentially weaker reinsurance security, given that participants in the emerging markets generally have lower levels of financial strength by international standards.

“This issue is amplified by premium funds being invested in devaluing local assets, considering the challenging economic conditions and volatile financial markets that some of the countries experience.”

She added: “Furthermore, isolation of insurance markets may lead to a lack of consumer choice and inadequate service levels as national players are not able to benefit from the expertise of their peers in the global market, where technology and innovation are drivers of the industry.”

AM Best states that insurance sectors in many emerging markets within the region are at different stages of development, with some open to further market liberalisation and others moving towards greater protectionist measures.

For most of these markets, a key consideration is the level of restrictions on foreign participation within these economies, in addition to reducing the outflow of income generated in the country.

According to the research, although internationalisation and harmonisation processes have been underway across the world for decades, protectionist measures have been taken by regulators in emerging markets to safeguard local policyholders and insurers.

Other protectionist steps include the expansion of domestic insurance capacity and the retention of premium income and capital flows within national borders.

To develop local insurance markets, some insurance regulators in emerging economies have imposed measures such as compulsory domestic cessions to a state reinsurer, restrictions on foreign ownership, limits on foreign investment, the introduction of minimum net premium retention levels and higher capital requirements for reinsurance cessions overseas. – Commercial Risk Africa

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