The new president of Gambia, Adama Barrow has predicted that in a short while, the country would become the insurance capital of Africa.
The Gambian president said with the potential macroeconomic stability that the country enjoys under his administration, The Gambia is going to be a major offshore centre of insurance on the African continent.
In a statement read on his behalf by Mai Fatty, minister of the Interior, at the opening ceremony of the 39th annual general meeting and educational conference of the West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA) at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi, President Barrow said the Gambia is poised to becoming “the Smiling Coast of many industries that would lead the growth and development, and progress in Africa”.
Commenting on the theme of the sub-regional conference – ‘Regional Integration Through Uniform Compliance’, the Gambian leader said if the West African sub-region is to develop, there is a need to harmonise economic practices.
“The business of insurance is an international one, therefore, there is need for uniform regulation which will promote business sharing and exchange and consequently facilitate trade and integration within the sub-region,” he said.
He told about 200 participants in the conference that it was important to have an in-depth understanding of the unique business processes within West Africa to harmonise the practices effectively.
“There is also the need to bear in mind the peculiar nature of various insurance markets such as the governing structures of the various regulatory frameworks,” Barrow said.
Makaireh Badjan, president of the Insurance Association of The Gambia (IAG), expressed gratitude to the executive committee of WAICA for giving The Gambia the opportunity to host the conference.
He said the conference offers a very good opportunity to dialogue and come up with effective and efficient mechanisms that would foster regional integration through harmonisation of the insurance industry practices.
The deputy governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, Oumie Samba-Savage, said the promotion of regional integration for structural transformation remains an important economic and political goal in Africa at large and the sub-region in particular.
“Therefore, as regulator of the insurance industry, we[the Central Bank Gambia] are even more committed to ensuring the realisation of the objectives of regional integration in general and a harmonised insurance legislation in particular,” she said.
WAICA President Rotomi Fashola said WAICA believes and supports the regional integration of the head of states and governments of ECOWAS.
“Consequently, our annual educational conference has become a forum for advocating for critical developmental issues, especially the regional cooperation agenda for the good of the insurance business and the ultimate benefits of countries in the sub-region,” he said.
“It is therefore not by accident that the main thrust of our discourse over the years has been the need to embrace regional integration as a concept of sustainable development. This year’s conference is no exception.”
The WAICA president said the need for harmonised insurance practices in West Africa is topical and the conference would broaden the perspective of the participants and instigate resourceful engagement in specific areas.
William Coker, secretary general of WAICA, said the bane of the insurance industry in West Africa is lack of awareness of insurance and insurance policies.
In view of this, he said, WAICA secretariat is working on an insurance education project that seeks to get insurance as a standalone, examinable subject of study at secondary schools in WAICA member countries – Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
“Indeed in a very direct way, the more the subject of insurance is studied the more awareness is created among our population,” he said. “And once the awareness is created, half the battle of the insurance companies would be fought and won.”
The 39th annual general meeting and educational conference of WAICA being hosted in The Gambia is an opportunity that allows insurance industry professionals and all other stakeholders to interact, network and share experiences on innovation and opportunities to develop the insurance industry.