Insurance penetration in Uganda is estimated at only 0.6%.
What are you doing to grow it?
Companies are carrying out sensitisation programmes through the media to educate the public about the need for insurance. We intend to have more forums like this expo where we can talk face to face with the public to understand what they really think of insurance and what they need. We realise that if people understand the industry, the number will grow. We plan to translate some policies - especially Motor Third Party - into major local languages so that people can easily understand it better.
What are the sector’s main challenges?
Those are quite many but the first is the state of the economy, susceptible to inflationary pressures, which affects people’s disposable income. Most people spend over 80 percent of what they earn, meaning there is little left to invest in things like insurance. The other is that most people don’t understand what insurance is all about and so don’t yearn for its services. Others think we are thieves who won’t compensate them when they suffer loss, which is untrue.
There are 22 insurance companies serving less than 1 percent of the population. Isn’t it too competitive?
Yes, the number of firms looks big but if people understood the benefits of insurance this number could easily double. And competition is also good - it gives customers a chance to choose the service they really need.
Most insurance companies have concentrated in urban areas leaving the rural unserved. Isn’t this impeding the sector’s growth?
That is true. But business has to be established where it will be profitable. Urban centres are where many people can easily be accessed. Insurance it is demand driven. So if customers are in town, what do you do? Increase their purchasing power and their willingness to take up insurance, and then you will have these companies going everywhere.
What major products are companies offering?
The major business driving the industry is motor insurance. Everyday you hear of accidents on the road, in factories, fires in markets and homes, so people insure their vehicles against theft, fire, accidents, etc. The other major one is life insurance.
What plans do you have to increase the number of products?
We are looking at agricultural insurance because over 80% of our population is employed in that sector. We know it is not easy because most people in agriculture can’t easily take up insurance, but we want to give it a try.
Some people say insurers cheat them and don’t compensate after they have incurred losses? What are doing about this?
We have a code of conduct, which every member must adhere to. If not, they face the disciplinary committee of the association. We urge any person or group – whether insurer or insured – to bring any queries or complaints to us. If necessary we can proceed to courts of law. Most people say these things in public but do not bring them to us. Last year we only received three such cases. Our Complaints Desk is always waiting but we take months without any complaint.
Your last word ...
I urge the government to maintain a favourable environment for the industry. We play a vital role in this economy by contributing taxes and compensating people after they suffer losses. I also encourage the public to take up insurance to be sure of tomorrow.
BY JULIUS BUSINGE: The Independent Newspaper Uganda Uganda Insurers Association Technical Manager, David Tumuhaise, Talks to Julius.