Generations of explorers and investors have identified Africa as a continent with a big business potential. The sheer size of the continent has often proven to be an obstacle. The invention of one small device now can change everything: the mobile phone. For a company like Allianz mobile microinsurance holds a lot of promise. In our featured interview, Ben Oumar shares his experience in what it is like to sell insurance without all the paperwork. His job: Mobile insurance promoter for Allianz.
65 percent of adult Africans now own a mobile phone, while insurance penetration still lingers below four percent. Reaching low-income people via mobile phone is an emerging trend in Africa, and a game changer to the industry. In 2012, Allianz Ivory Coast started to promote insurance by leveraging mobile technology. Together with Mobile Telephone Networks Group (MTN), a leading communication service provider in Africa, Allianz Ivory Coast offers two mobile insurance products, a mobile funeral insurance and a mobile savings plan. Ben Oumar works as an Allianz mobile insurance promoter in an MTN branch in Abidjan, the country’s capital.
allianz.com: What is your job as a promoter of Allianz mobile microinsurance?
Ben Oumar: Since one and a half years I am deployed to branches of our telecommunications partner MTN. In the MTN branches, I try to explain our two mobile insurance products to MTN customers who come to these branches. I help them enroll through their mobile phones. They don’t have to sign any papers. And the premium payment also happens through the mobile phone by using MTN mobile money.
allianz.com: How successful have you been so far?
Ben Oumar: It is quite tough to catch peoples’ attention and convince them about the benefits of insurance. People come to the MTN branches on some other business, for example to pay their phone bill or to get some technical questions resolved. Many are in a great hurry and insurance is not their current priority.
With less than four percent insurance penetration, many Africans are still unfamiliar with the concept of insurance. Having to part with some of their limited money today for an uncertain payback in the future eludes many of them. Therefore, pressing current needs such as phone bill payments, education fees or simply getting enough food on the table are more top of mind for them than insurance.
allianz.com: How many people have you convinced so far?
Ben Oumar: About 500. About one out of twenty persons I talk to finally asks me to help with registration. So you can imagine how many people I have already talked to [laughs].
allianz.com: What is the most popular product?
Ben Oumar: Our mobile savings plan is more popular than our mobile funeral insurance, although it is more expensive. People like to get something back from the insurance. To many, it still sounds strange that they don’t get their premium back if they don’t make a claim, as happens with our funeral insurance. We only have these two products, and they are actually very simple.
allianz.com: What helps you to convince people of the benefit of insurance?
Ben Oumar: It helps me a lot when people already know Allianz. About four out of ten are already familiar with our brand. It also helps if people have bought insurance before, so they know the concept. It is very good that our products are so simple, that there is no paperwork and premium payment is very convenient. People like that. It is also important to approach people at the right moment. I usually wait until people have had their main business with MTN resolved, so they are more relaxed when I talk to them.
allianz.com: And what makes your insurance promotion more difficult?
Ben Oumar: If people have never heard of Allianz or even of insurance. Unfortunately, here in Ivory Coast that is still the majority of people. I also don’t approach people who had to wait a long time in the cue. They are usually not in the right mood to talk about insurance.
It would also be great if there was more marketing for our products and for insurance in general, like big posters and banners that catch people’s attention.
allianz.com: What are the most frequently asked questions from customers?
Ben Oumar: The number one question on the savings plan is how much interest is being paid. The top question on the funeral plan is how long the claim process takes. Many people also ask to shorten the contract length because one year for funeral and minimum three years for the savings plan is a very long time for them.
allianz.com: What was your most memorable experience with mobile insurance so far?
Ben Oumar: I once had this very enthusiastic customer. A woman who took out both mobile products, the savings and the funeral plan. Then she sent her friend to me to also subscribe to the mobile insurance. Right in the moment when I was explaining the products to her friend, that lady called and reported that she just had an accident. Fortunately, she was not hurt, and she reminded her friend immediately again about the importance of insurance.