The Gambia insurance industry has roundly noted that there is need for more improvement in the performance of the industry.
On Tuesday during its lecture programme held at the Laico Atlantic Hotel in Banjul, as part of its annual Insurance Awareness Week, which this year runs from 11 to 16 February, stakeholders of the industry at the lecture could not dispute the fact that the insurance industry has been nursing a poor public image in The Gambia.
Even though The Gambia can today boast of over ten insurance companies in operation, Muhammed M. Jagana, president of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), who presented a paper at the lecture, said: "The biggest perception with insurance companies might also be the biggest contributor to the Poor Public Image of the Industry in The Gambia."
He added: "Majority of policyholders in The Gambia think that insurance companies are good at collecting premiums and once you get into trouble they bring you a lot of issues in order to avoid paying claims."
He also told players of the industry: "I am not sure if you undertake any market surveys amongst policyholders or the public in general in relation to insurance companies pay-out in The Gambia.
"I was in URD (Upper River Division) last week and started to ask people about insurance policies; quite a lot of them simply gave me the expected answer: Insurance companies just collect your money. If you have an accident they want you to get a police report or inform you that your policy doesn't cover this amount."
He noted further: "This I believe can be solved by making policyholders more aware about their rights under the insurance coverage."
Mr Jagana also gave some advice on how the industry could improve its public image and draw or maintain more business transactions with the general public for the industry to thrive and be more recognised by the people as well as place itself in a better position to contribute more meaningfully to the Gambian economy.
The GCCI president advised players of the industry to make insurance better known to the general public through more publicity and advertisement.
"Either through the IAG or as companies, publish or advertise the number of claims paid in a quarter," he said. "Get policyholders to talk about their great experiences; conduct public awareness forums and expand these types of forums to outside the inner-core of the market; develop community awareness schemes; educate prospective policyholders at early age; make the IAG more visible; and publicise your industry standards."
In his presentation on the occasion, the Commissioner of Insurance of the Central Bank of The Gambia, Pa Alieu Sillah, said insurers should make the best use their industry as insurance plays a key role in a modern economy and contributes to its growth and development in a number of ways.
Mr Sillah said insurance promotes financial stability and security at both the national and personal levels; encourage productive investments and innovation through the mitigation of the consequences of financial misfortune; mobilize savings; contribute to an efficient use of capital based on insurer's role as significant institutional investors; facilitate firm's access to capital (as institutional investors); reduce the capital firms need to operate; promote sensible risk management through the price mechanism; and foster stable consumption throughout the customer's life.
"A well functioning insurance market should lead to: better pricing of risk, greater efficiency in the overall allocation of capital and mix of economic activities, and higher productivity," he noted.
The Senior Manager of Prime Insurance Company, Rougie Gaye Nyan, in her paper, said eradicating the poor image of the industry can be summed up in two words: education and communication.
The insurers need to educate and communicate more with clients, she says, adding: "We only tend to deal with clients when they have a claim or when renewals are due, when we are talking to them about premium."
She added that there should be education and communication with the general public in a simple language for the people to understand all what insurance is about and embrace it.
The lecture was moderated by IGi Gamstar Managing Director Frank Uche.