28 April 2014

West Africa: ECOWAS Insurers Resort to Fast-Track Process of Claim Payment

Insurers from Ecowas member countries have resolved to devise a mechanism that will facilitate faster payment of every "genuine claim" under the Brown Card Insurance Scheme, having recognised that slow payment of such claims is one of the main hindrances to the scheme.

This is one of the resolutions made by at least 70 senior insurance practitioners from various countries in West Africa, who met in The Gambia from 23rd to 25th April. The convergence was meant to discuss important issues concerning the smooth operation of the Ecowas Brown Card Insurance Scheme, an insurance cover for cross-border movement within the Ecowas sub-region.

It was the first zonal meeting in 2014 and 6th Extra-ordinary General Assembly of the Council of Bureau of the Ecowas Brown Card Insurance Scheme, hosted in The Gambia by the Gambia National Bureau of the Brown Card.

The Brown Card is an international insurance certificate that is issued to motorists when they travel from their country of residence, to another country within the Ecowas sub-region. It covers death, medical expense, bodily injuries and material damage. The scheme was established in 1982 with the objectives of enhancing the free movement of road users, and to foster real regional integration. Speaking to reporters at the end of the forum, Bio Adamou, permanent secretary-general at the secretariat of the Council of Bureau of the Ecowas Brown Card, said the meeting has agreed that all national bureaus should put in place a compensation fund which they can use to quickly pay claims.

This agreement was prompted by the fact that settlement of claims under the Brown Card Scheme by the various national bureau "is one of the key challenges eating into the smooth operations of the scheme."

Adamou said the slow payment of claims is even contrary to the very spirit of the provisions of the Ecowas protocol that established the scheme. The protocol says the scheme has to be based on prompt and fast settlement of claims. "So instead of fast payment, things are slow," Adamou lamented. The Secretary-general of the Gambia National Bureau, Henry Jawo, observed that though the protocol requires claim payment process to be fast, national bureaux lack the resources to be able to promptly settle claims. He added that they have to wait for the insurance company that issued the insurance cover to settle the claim first, before they (the bureau) can settle it. The main cause of the delay in payment, he said, 'is that the arrangement is slow.'

The insurance officials buttressed that lack of claims payment is not an issue under the scheme, but the long process and slow pace it takes for claims to be paid has been the main hindrance to the scheme. "It was because of this reason that the the Brown Card Council of Bureau, urged all national bureaux to do their best to put in place the compensation fund. With the establishment of this fund, national bureau can pay claims quickly and later the insurance company that issued the cover will reimburse them. "Once we have that in place, then this slow payment of claims will be a thing of the past," Jawo noted. He said the process to establish the fund will start in earnest, saying that the national bureau will endeavour to establish the fund, with the support of their member companies..

Speaking on Wednesday during the opening ceremony of the forum, Ebou L. Bittaye, the chairman of the Gambia National Bureau, said the three-day meeting would discuss pertinent issues relating to the Consensus Brown Card and claims settlement under the scheme. "The meeting is expected to arrive at firm resolutions and decisions about the new brown card and settlement that would be acceptable by all," said Bittaye, who is also the managing director of Global Security Insurance Company.

The Ecowas Brown Card Insurance Scheme, he said, is widely believed to be one of the most successful tools for integration within the sub-region, as it facilitates the safe movement of peoples and goods within West Africa.

For his part, Basiru Njai, first deputy governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, said the scheme serves as a facilitator of trade and tourism in a sub-region of 300 million people, with a fast growing middle class, in addition to providing compensation to victims of road accidents across member states. ECOWAS Brown Card Scheme, he explained, is a compulsory insurance cover for victims of road traffic accident involving vehicles traveling across the West African sub-region. It covers death, medical expenses, bodily injury and material damage. The scheme, Njai revealed, was established in 1982, with the objective of enhancing the free movement of road-users and to foster real regional integration. The first deputy governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia noted that the scheme also aims to guarantee a fair and prompt compensation to the victims of road accidents for losses suffered by visiting motorists travelling from other Ecowas member countries.

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