Atlas Magazine June 2004

The new trends

Insurance highlights in emerging countries have been marked by the holding of the annual 25th summit of the General Arab Insurance Federation, (GAIF), in Beirut from the 10th to the 12th of May 2004, and the 31st conference of the African Insurance Organization's general Assembly in Tunis from the 29th of May to the second of June 2004. Both events have in the past attracted insurers and reinsurers big wigs.

However, it was conspicuously clear to notice that the profession's world leaders have stolen the spotlight by being absent from both the Beirut and Tunis venues.

Regarded as an area of instability with high loss-making potential, the Middle East has been fled by international insurance and reinsurance companies.

As to Africa, which stands for only 1% of the world's premium, it is no longer deemed as a profitable market in the short term due to its creeping economy, the recurrent conflicts taking place on its soil, the impoverishment of its middle class, and the AIDS scourge.

Only Asia, the new Eldorado, remains to be the attractive area to which reinsurers are rushing.

Two years following the end of the unprecedented crisis endured by insurance, it seems that the main actors are curled up on their markets, preferring a self-centered approach in order to gather momentum and pick up. Recovering equilibrium and strengthening financial health have overshadowed the need to spread and scatter.

For African and Middle East emerging countries, this state of affairs is not devoid of positive aspects as popular wisdom has it that all is not gloom and doom.

This worldwide-scale redeployment provides insurers and reinsurers in the concerned area with an opportunity to develop a portfolio away from those groups that have disproportionate capabilities. Arab and African insurers and reinsures must take full advantage of this golden opportunity to thrive on their own markets and extend their activities to neighbouring markets.

This overhaul cannot succeed unless insurance companies themselves subscribe to strict criteria of good management, elaborate a strategy; rate risks appropriately, assess disasters accurately, follow up on one's technical commitments and are outfitted with data-processing technologies.
Apart from strenuous hard labour, there can be no other miracle recipe.

In any case, the different supervising authorities of the emerging countries decided not to wait for the Beirut and Tunis meetings to start the clean up of their respective markets.It is thanks to rigorous work and strenuous efforts that insurance in Africa and the Middle East will continue to operate.

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