Atlas Magazine January 2005

2004: Annus Horribilis

How will the year 2004 be recalled?

The good stuff first.

In Africa the consolidation of the insurance sector is coming to fruition with very satisfactory results following the example of South Africa, where companies have achieved unprecedented results.
In the countries of the CIMA zone, and in spite of the turmoil that shook Cote d’Ivoire, the insurance business is, by and large, thriving more than it has done in the past as is obvious from the results reported by Cameroon and Senegal.

In the northern part of the African continent, the reforms of the legislation started in some countries such as Morocco shall enable the insurance sector to adapt to the new economic reality. Equally important reforms are under way in Algeria. Finally, in Libya, the foundation of two new firms has paved the way for promising prospects.

In the Middle East, the new legislation regulating the business in Saudi Arabia is expected to trigger a boom in the sector, which will attract foreign investors. In the Gulf, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have engaged in a stiff competition to overtake Beirut’s leadership of the insurance sector over the region.

In Asia, the process of the market liberalization is in full swing, and is set to extend to the area’s two giants: China and India whose enormous potential is tempting the insurance icons. The Iranian market, where privatization is due for this year, should also undergo a new boost.

All these good news —put together— have, unfortunately, been overshadowed by the numerous disasters enumerated during the year 2004, with 650 natural catastrophes that caused a total financial damage of 130 billion USD, 40 billions of which are damages covered by insurance.

This account has already been regarded as a record although it was made before the devastating cataclysm that hit South East Asia. The Tsunami tidal waves have, so far, claimed the lives of 150 000 victims, with thousands reported missing, along with the massive destruction caused to buildings and infrastructure. This major humanitarian disaster has certainly saddened the whole world at the close of this year 2004.

Sad coincidence as this disaster occurs on December 26, that is, one year —day by day— after the Bam earthquake which hit Iran in 2003 claiming the lives of 45 000 people.

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