Africa: Pan-African Insurer Keen to Strengthen Disaster Cover

29 November 2019

African governments have expressed confidence in African Risk Capacity Insurance's ability to help the continent hedge against disaster-induced risks.

The subsidiary of African Risk Capacity (ARC), a specialised agency of the African Union, says it is keen to help the continent deal with disasters without having to rely on foreign aid.

The commitment was made on Thursday, November 28, during ARC's 8th Session of the Conference of the Parties, which was held in Kigali.

The insurer says that international assistance is usually secured on a largely ad hoc basis after disasters have struck and that governments are forced to divert funds in national budgets from essential development programmes in order to respond to the crises.

The mobilisation of relief towards the people who need it most is often too late, leading to loss of lives, assets and undreaming development gains.

Olipa Phiri Mwansa, the Minister in the Office of the Vice President in Zambia, said that almost 1.5 million have died due to natural disasters over the past 20 years.

Citing a United Nations' disaster risk reduction report, she said this year Africa has registered more than 45 million people in 15 countries in Africa who need support to meet their daily requirements.

"Our shared ambition is to build the resilience of African vulnerable people to natural disasters. I want to commend the African Risk Capacity for their excellent innovation in striving to improve the time of response when the disaster strikes," she said.

She added: "Globally, international assistance still takes too long to arrive, hence a more proactive approach is needed, and this is what the ARC is bringing on the table to help."

According to ARC, each $1 spent on early intervention saves $4.4 that would be spent in response after the crisis has unfolded.

Mohamed Béavogui, ARC Director-General, said that its insurance affiliate has grown to $600 million since its inception five years ago.

He said that this development is a good step towards the African continent's capacity to compensate affected people.

However, he said, many improvements are needed because the initiative is still in its nascent stage.

Since 2014, ARC has disbursed $36.8 million to its policyholders as a result of drought events in six countries including Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, and Mali.

These funds have gone towards assisting over 2.1 million people whose livelihoods rely on agriculture, preventing the loss of hard-earned developmental gains.

The body says that governments have used its funding to scale up cash transfers, subsidize livestock feed, replenish depleted food reserves, and distribute emergency food supplies.

"This is an exceptional situation whereby Africans have been able to protect themselves at a point," he said.

"We are not partisans of complacence. We are not saying that everything is done. But, we just want to recognise the few steps that have been made, and be able to say that yes hustling for hand-outs, but it is also bringing some solutions that are sustainable for itself despite all odds," he observed.

"We have to make this institution solid, that is really impactful for the continent."

Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, Rwanda's Minister of Agriculture and Animal Renounces, said that given the projected escalation of weather unpredictability across the world and Africa in particular, households that rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood are increasingly living in risky situations.

"ARC has started and fully operationalised its drought product in different countries and Rwanda is at its initial stage of the implementation. Based on the historical data, eleven agricultural droughts occurred in Rwanda leading to crop failure," she said.

The minister said that Rwanda signed an agreement with ARC in November 2018 to address the impact of extreme weather events, including training government personnel in preparation for the country's potential participation in the company's drought insurance pools.

Thirty-three African countries, including Rwanda, are members of the African Risk Capacity, while only nine have joined its insurance scheme.


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