Skip to main content
February 21, 2019

Election jitters increases demand for riskk insurance

Kibera line saba residents try putting out fire which is feared have claimed lives of about four people among them three children and one female adult in the fire that started at about 7.00am rendering about 1000 residents homeless. Photo/ Jack Owuor
Kibera line saba residents try putting out fire which is feared have claimed lives of about four people among them three children and one female adult in the fire that started at about 7.00am rendering about 1000 residents homeless. Photo/ Jack Owuor

So you have your national identification card or passport ready, voters card safely kept, checked your details in the voters register and your favourite candidate has been cleared by the IEBC for March 4 ?

Check again! This is not all, more so if you are a businessperson.

Have you taken adequate measures to protect yourself or your business from any potential security and investment danger stemming from the elections?

Flashback to late 2007 and early 2008; tourism was brought to its knees, businesses destroyed, some losing many days of operations and employees were displaced and others killed.

This is the grim picture that followed after the last general elections that crippled the economy in that year with a ripple effect being felt up to 2010.

It is a situation, many did not envisage. Even worse was the fact that majority of those affected did not have proper insurance to compensate them after such devastating effects.

"We lost to the tune of Sh200 million. One outlet was opened after a month and the second after three years," said Kisumu regional director for Ukwala supermarkets Hitesh Dhanani. The supermarket's outlet located at Kenya Reinsurance plaza in Kisumu was looted and burnt by protesting youths.

Today, many are wiser. After the last general elections and following the sporadic terror attacks in some areas coupled with the rising political temperatures, most insurance companies are reporting more than 100 per cent rise in demand for the political violence and terrorism covers.

"We have done enough to secure our outlets and are scaling down on our stocks," says Dhanani.

Generally, the cover against political risk, terrorism and violence covers a myriad of things. Under political risk, cover is given against any unfair action or inaction of a government that could affect investments.

“As we get towards elections, it not just political violence that people are concerned about,” says Africa Trade Insurance Agency senior underwriter Humphrey Mwangi. For instance, he says, recently elected Zambian president Michael Sata reversed many contracts that the government had entered into with several investors.

“This is referred to as expropriation and an investor with political risk cover can be compensated if this was to occur,” explains Mwangi.

Other inclusions that cover the political risk aspect under this cover include: currency conversion problems, transfer restrictions, war and civil war, embargo on goods or services and non honouring of sovereign guarantees.

The terrorism, violence and sabotage aspect of the cover will compensate damage to property like cars and buildings among others.

It will compensate when your insured property is damaged by terror groups like the Al Shabaab, goods and/or money lost while on transit upon encounter with rioting mobs, staff injuries during riots and damage to an ongoing construction caused by riots or terrorism.

It also reimburses for loss of revenue during the period of violence when a business' operation is interrupted.

A director only identified as Gachuhi at Paul's Bakeries situated in Eldoret which was another violence hotspot in 2008 says the business has taken the political risk and violence cover among other measures to forestall any losses this time round.

"We have all (area businessmen) done it," he says.

UAP Insurance company, one of the first to launch the political risk, violence and terrorism covers says that homeowners with existing covers on their properties such as protection against fire or theft, can also extend these covers to include the political risk aspect.

Most insurance companies were lenient enough to reward some of their good customers after the devastation caused by 2008 post poll violence to rescue the economy and many businesses.

This time round, most have put adequate measures in place to design appropriate products under this class and will therefore not offer ex-gratia payments again, they say due to the cost involved.

An ex-gratia payment is money paid when there was no obligation or liability to pay it because the claim did not meet the terms and conditions of an existing contract between an insurance company and the insured client.

Most of the businesses that benefited from the ex-gratia payments were supermarkets and distribution and transport companies especially those operating in Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa.

“In 2008, UAP spent Sh60 million to compensate clients who suffered various losses as a result of the post election violence even though we were not under obligations. We paid this out of our own volition,” says Michael Oduor, the UAP general manager of operations.

Jubilee Insurance's chairman Nizar Juma puts his company's spend on ex-gratia payments after the last election at a total of Sh80 million.

Juma says about 70 businesses benefited from this goodwill which was only extended to their then existing customers who had a good track record with the firm.

“This time more of them (those who were paid out on ex-gratia) have taken the cover. We want more and more people to make sure that they are covered against civil commotion and riots,” urges Juma.

Jubilee Insurance's CEO Patrick Tumbo however is cautioning employers who may want to take these cover for their staff. Tumbo says companies should ensure staff uphold integrity and peace and are not caught on the wrong side of the law as far as riots and looting are concerned.

“If you throw stones then you get shot, do not expect compensation. Insurance is against repayment to immorality and unjust acts,” cautions Tumbo.

CIC Insurance Group managing director Nelson Kuria says businesses especially the SMEs that were adversely affected the last time such risks occurred should take insurance as a high priority.

“Empower people through insurance, they should no see insurance as a necessary evil, they should see insurance as a tool for sustainability,” Kuria recently told agents and the firm's clients at a function to unveil a new product.

CIC Insures a lot of investment groups that were also highly affected in 2008. Some banks and savings and cooperative societies had to reschedule the loan repayment of such businesses after the devastation.

So extensive was the damage to the economy, that the government had to unveil a Sh40 billion economic stimulus package in 2009 to jumpstart the economy.

Most of the expenditure under this package went to infrastructure projects that were extensively damaged by the rioting, fertiliser and other farm inputs since agribusiness is the backbone of Kenya's economy and establishment of special economic zones to boost exports.

The tourism industry, one of the top three foreign exchange earners in the country lost an estimated Sh20 billion due to the chaotic elections.

The election period and campaign activities which peaked in December affected the high season hence the massive loss.

The insurance industry is responding to concerns over the upcoming election. Demand for political risk and terrorism cover has risen by over 100 per cent but as minor terror attacks and clashes in some parts of the country are being reported, international reinsurers are cutting back their risk exposure in the country.

This has prompted Association of Kenya Insurers to start a risk pool so that the insurance firms offering political risk and terrorism covers can buy a joint and cheaper reinsurance cover from local reinsurance companies and the ATI.

“This will help insurance firms that offer the cover make it affordable to Kenyans,” says AKI executive director Tom Gichuhi.

However big the demand, there is still a major misconception in the market in which customers want the cover for just the election period. Most are inquiring to have the cover between now and April.

“Insurance is a business that survives on pooling risk with a probability that it may or may not happen. You do not buy insurance only when you anticipate a problem,” explains Tumbo.

Oduor from UAP has also noted the same trend among clients: “Demand increased gradually since 2007/2008 violence but it swelled towards end of 2012 into 2013. Enquiries are coming in specifically for period between March 1 and end of May 2013.”

Insurance firms were caught flat footed the last time there was an election. This time, they have taken the first step to forestall any threats to the economy. Have you?

Poll of the day