The African Risk Capacity (ARC), a specialized agency of the African Union, in collaboration with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has unveiled an outbreak and epidemics insurance policy for African governments.
The development of Africa's own sovereign insurance product is expected to help protect the continent's populations against disease outbreaks and provide timely interventions during emergency situations.
The insurance policy came into being after the threat of outbreaks and epidemics of infectious diseases like Ebola and Marburg posed an increasing danger to the health of African people as well as to the continent's security, economies and political and public order. Africa continues to be a continent severely at risk.
This led the African Ministers of Finance to call on the ARC to create aware an insurance product capable of financing efforts to contain outbreaks in Africa, so that the problem be confronted before it reaches a devastating scale.
For the next 18 months, the policy will be on pilot basis in Uganda after which it will be implemented.
According to Lead Advisor Outbreak and Epidemic at ARC, Robert Kwame deGraft Agyarko, Africa records over 100 public health emergencies every year and needs to prepare itself for future outbreaks to be able to respond swiftly to emergencies with adequate capacity.
"ARC intends to build a customized response system for each country that joins the program, providing home-grown, rapid and precise service capable of saving lives and protecting the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent," he noted.
Mr Robert Agyarko believes Africa must be proactive rather than waiting for outbreaks to happen before responding.
To reach 150 million Africans insured by 2020, the lead advisor said the ARC has developed a strategic growth plan with requirements such as early warning, insurance, climate adaption finance and contingency planning; to match some $314million in premium income from African governments.
"The ultimate objective at the end of the program is to enable governments to make an informed decision regarding transferring the country's natural risks to ARC and participation in the ARC risk pool."
Adding his voice, ARC Chief Underwriting Officer, Malvern Chirume said it is time for Africans to be aware of their own problems and provide solutions to them. "Africa for African solutions."
He observed that the policy is not a solidarity fund but an insurance fund.
Building on its existing infrastructure, ARC is convinced the insurance program will establish a pool of cost-effective capital that can be rapidly deployed, incentivises countries to acknowledge outbreaks and epidemics and facilitate better health systems strengthening and preparedness by linking pay-outs to pre-prepared response plans.
A managing partner for Health System Consult Limited (HSCL) in Nigeria, Dr. Alozie Ananaba, opined that, "Often, we plan but unfortunately, we don't have the funds to execute those plans. That is why we are helping governments to plan well by investing in such insurance projects to be able to help during emergence situations."
In its three years of operation, the ARC has paid out more than $34 million to countries affected by drought.
In 2015, three countries in the Sahel -Mauritania, Niger and Senegal received a $26.3 million pay-out from ARC following a significant rainfall deficit. These countries paid a combined premium of $8 million for their drought insurance coverage.