Adan Abbey is the President of Horn of Africa Insurance, an insurance company based in Hargeisa, Somaliland and providing international standard insurance services to a traditionally underserved Somaliland and Somalia market. A region that lacks the presence of insurance services and access to a robust financial services sector. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Adan explains his company’s strategy to take insurance to the grassroot, change the mind of people to be more proactive with their finance. And most importantly, impact his community by creating more jobs for the youth. Excerpt.
Alaba: Tell us about Horn of Africa Insurance and the gap its filling?
Adan: Horn of Africa Insurance is a general insurance company headquartered in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Our main product offerings include Auto, Property, Medical, and Cargo insurance coverage. Our goal is to be an international standard insurer that provides high quality insurance services tailored to our local and regional context. We are achieving this by providing much needed insurance services to a traditionally underserved population. This is a market that in general has not had access to a robust financial services sector, so we are helping to fill that gap.
Whether it’s by insuring a high value asset for an international investor, or by providing medical insurance to someone who maybe has never had it before, our job is to protect you and your assets while at the same time providing you with peace of mind.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Adan: One of our biggest challenges right now is the lack of understanding about what insurance actually is. In the absence of formal insurance, the majority of the population here participates in a sort of tribal insurance scheme, one that has existed for generations. You can think of it as risk pooling whereby you contribute to a pool of funds and in the event of a major incident (a car accident for example), your tribe will take money from that pool to help cover the cost of injuries and/or death.
While that has worked to a certain extent, there are many challenges associated with it, so we spend a lot of time educating people on the benefits of formal insurance. We’re out in the field having one on one interactions with people, understanding their needs, and explaining how insurance can be a solution. We can also point to many examples where businesses lost massive sums of money because their goods were uninsured.
Another challenge we face is the lack of insurance specific laws and regulations, which are important to the development of the overall industry and also help spur economic development. We expect that this will change in the not too distant future, so our focus has been on building a strong brand and customer base.
Alaba: Why is your brand different from other insurance brands in terms of your unique selling point?
Adan: As a management team we have over 10 years of direct insurance experience at global insurance companies and even more years in the broader financial services industry. It’s not only the experience that we are bringing to the market, but also a level of quality and service. When you insure with Horn of Africa Insurance you know you’re getting great coverage and a company that will go the extra mile for you. For example if one of our customers is involved in a car accident we try to send the nearest representative to the scene.
An accident can be very stressful so we try to be there whenever we can to help, whether it’s helping with the paperwork, towing, etc. It’s an example of how we try to go above and beyond for our customers. We also work with top international reinsurers, and this allows us to service almost any client need, while providing an extra layer of protection.
Alaba: How is your brand contributing to the development of the insurance industry?
Adan: We are essentially developing a market from the ground up. We are spending time and money to educate people at all levels about the benefits of insurance. We are trying to shift the mindsets of people to think more proactively about their finances rather than reactively. Oftentimes people only understand the benefit of insurance when the experience a significant loss. They have to deal with the financial burdens either alone or if they are lucky with help from their family or community.
Our message to people is that insurance is there to help you in those times of need. To me insurance is deeper than just asset protection, it contributes to wealth creation, and it helps to drive economies. By mitigating your financial risks you allow yourself the opportunity to continue to save and invest in building wealth. And on a national level most investors wouldn’t consider making large investments in a country without insurance.
Insurers also create jobs and are some of the largest institutional investors. So we believe that we are making a significant contribution in the work that we are doing.
Alaba: What markets are you operating in, currently? Any plans for expansion?
Adan: We are currently only operating in Somaliland. Our current focus is to continue our expansion within the country first, as we believe there is great potential to make a positive impact here.
Alaba: What’s the future for your brand and what steps are you taking towards achieving them?
Adan: We believe the future of our brand is to be synonymous with quality insurance at a great price throughout the Horn of Africa region and beyond. Our goal is to be a Pan African insurer and No. 1 in the Horn of Africa region. We are taking it one customer at a time, as success is the result of consistent hard work and execution of a strong vision.
Alaba: What’s your view on the evolution of the insurance ecosystem in Africa?
Adan: Insurance penetration in Africa is roughly 2.8%, which is low but it is not only an African phenomenon. Global insurance penetration is roughly 6%. I do however think that Africa has the chance to be a global leader in this market. This is a continent that is just beginning its journey towards accelerated growth. We have some of the fastest growing economies on earth.
Imagine what the continent can transform into once we see things like stronger infrastructure, increased trade between African countries, and a growing middle class. The beauty of insurance is that the industry plays a part in all of that. We insure construction projects, cargo, and the assets of individuals. We can also become a global leader through innovation. Look at what has been done with mobile money in Africa.
Here in Somaliland for example, I do not carry a wallet. Virtually every transaction I make is on my mobile phone. So it just shows you that innovation can come from Africa and that the continent can be a model of success if we put in place measures that encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and good governance.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Adan: It feels exciting and rewarding. I’m proud that we have been able to create employment, particularly for young people who have graduated without access to quality jobs. It may sound cliché to say, but I really do believe that Africa’s time is now. We all have something to contribute, an area of expertise, a passion. I believe we owe it to ourselves to build this continent into something incredible. When the movie Black Panther came out, it created a lot of emotion in people because here was Africa essentially being portrayed as the most advanced place in the world by far, and it made people proud. There’s no reason why that cannot become a reality.
Africans are excelling in every single field imaginable and at the highest levels. Not to mention the brilliance of youth that who if given an opportunity could reach unimaginable heights. I’d encourage people to consider entrepreneurship, particularly if you feel that you are only operating at a fraction of your true potential.
Alaba: What is your advice for African entrepreneurs and investors?
Adan: What I’m learning is that to be successful, no matter what your definition is of success, you have to win the battle against your own mind. You will experience rejection, people will tell you that what you’re doing will never work; they may even try to bring you down. These will be the same people who will chase after you during the good times. So your vision has to be strong in your mind, you have to see exactly where you will be and believe it.
That is what will help you get through the daily roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship. You also have to be willing to take calculated risks and be patient enough to see things through.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Adan: I exercise at least 5 days a week, I find it energizing but also a time where I can decompress. I also practice visualization; I often have my vision board next to me on my desk. I try to read one book a month, typically a different genre each time. I’m currently reading “Connectivity” by Parag Khanna which explores how political borders become less relevant as the world is becoming more connected.
Alaba: Teach us one word in your local language. What is your favourite local dish and holiday spot within Africa?
Adan: The word for “car” in Somali is “gaari”. It comes from the Hindi language, and it’s actually the same word in Swahili. It’s an illustration as to how the historical Red Sea and Indian Ocean trading routes had an influence on language and culture.
My favorite local dish is “sabaayad”, similar to chapatti, golden brown, flaky, and typically served with a goat stew or can be eaten alone with some honey and tea. Not the best for the waistline, but great for the soul.
I enjoy visiting Malindi, a beach town along the Kenyan coast. A destination that I have not yet visited but would love to is Mauritius.
B I O G R A P H Y
Adan Abbey is Co-Founder and President of Horn of Africa Insurance headquartered in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The company offers Auto, Property, Medical, and Marine Cargo coverage in Somaliland & Somalia. Adanbegan his career at Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston, where he served as a Senior Financial Analyst in the Personal Markets Division as well as with Liberty International Underwriters (LIU), Liberty’s multi-billion dollar specialty lines division reporting directly to the Chief Financial Officer. His experience includes managing large insurance portfolios, accounting, developing risk mitigation measures, and corporate strategy.
Mr. Abbey also has experience in the Pharmaceutical & Nutrition industries. At Abbott Laboratories, he served as an Associate Brand Manager, responsible for the $100MM+ Glucerna brand in the United States. This included managing multi-million dollar marketing budgets and executing strategies that increased revenue and brand equity.
Adan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from the University of Connecticut and MBA in Marketing & Management from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Wahida Mohamed: Empowering Women And Championing Islamic Financing In Sub Saharan Africa
Wahida Mohamed is the founder of Islamic FinTech Hub and a retail banker with over 10 years’ experience in conventional International trade finance and SME Relationship Management. She has also worked for a Democratic Governance Programme implemented for 3 years immediately post the promulgation of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. She has been of service to Somaliland by working for a Mott Macdonald managed – Somaliland Development Fund Secretariat that provided and managed an external development budget aligned to the country’s 5 year National Development Plan.
In order to make better use of her Monitoring and Evaluation qualifications Wahida founded One OAK Consultants that was selected out of 20,000 applicants to be part of the inaugural cohort of The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. One OAK Consultants uses Randomised Controlled Trials. It also makes a comparison of objective and subjective indicators to determine baseline and assess progress as well as impact of development programming interventions. One OAK Consultant she begun exploring the use of Immersive Virtual Reality as a reporting and advocacy tool.
Wahida’s passion for Islamic Finance Research has enabled her to participate in various studies in Sub Saharan Africa commissioned by The Islamic Research Training Institute – the research arm of The Islamic Development Bank, headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Her forte is Islamic financial inclusion, capability and consumer protection studies. She has also led a team that developed a Working Paper entitled Islamic Banking and Economic Infrastructure Development -Kenya’s prospects for The Kenya Bankers Association – Centre for Research on Financial Markets and Policy.
Her keen interest in addressing systemic barriers and other challenges that prevent women and girls from accessing and using financial services therefore impacting negatively on their economic empowerment is one of the drivers for the establishment of her latest venture– The Islamic Fintech Hub for Sub Saharan Africa (IsFHSSA). The other reason being winning a PhD Scholarship Award for ICT for Development.
IsFHSSA targets start-ups from ideation stage with a gender focus lens. Its first cohort comprises of an agribusiness with a halal certification feature that it is looking forward to developing in collaboration with Indonesian Halal Certification experts -PT. Ammacue Ihalals Ummatin. In this way the start-up will open up the Asian and other Islamic Consumer markets for its Sub Saharan Africa domiciled suppliers. This start-up has been selected for 12 months incubation, capacity building and financing by The Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) – an initiative supported by the World Bank’s infoDev and is the first in a global network of CICs launched by infoDev’s Climate Technology Program (CTP).KCIC is funded by the United Kingdom’s UKaid and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Another startup is a Takaful solution provider that leverages on blockchain and has just completed participation in round two of the on-going 2020 Corda Challenge. This startup is looking forward to working with Takaful Outsource of Netherlands to develop its sharia compliant products.
IsFHSSA is also host to an e-learning platform that will make use of TAIF Digital Institute – an Islamic Finance & Technology company with offices in UAE & Canada. TAIF is committed to support IsFHSSA initiative to deliver world-class Digital Learning Experience across Kenya & region. TAIF is seeking to connect students and teachers from different schools across Sub Saharan Africa.
Other start-ups in IsFHSSA first cohort are a wholly mobile sharia complaint microfinance targeting the Gambian Market; an app targeting sports persons and teams with the aim of building sports careers as well as refurbishing/commercialisation of grass root sports facilities; a sharia compliant mobile lending platform; institutionalization of Zakat vide a network of masjids; automation of sharia advisory services using Machine Learning and sharia complaint crowd funding platform for real estate and specialized agricultural projects development.IsFHSSA is part of the Fintech Galaxy UAE Ecosystem.
Clearly IsFHSSA less than six months’ trajectory is steep and promises to offer interesting businesses and discourse around Islamic Fintech from Sub Saharan Africa.
Wahida was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya. She holds a Masters in Monitoring and Evaluation from Maseno University, a BSc. Statistics from Egerton University, Post Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Manchester and Diploma in Financial Services Management from the Institute of Financial Services UK.
Serah Odende, co-founder of African Harvesters Talks Entrepreneurship and Her Initiative Ag4SDGs
Serah Odende is co-Founder and CEO of African Harvesters, an AgriMedia (marketing, advocacy and training) startup based in Lagos, Nigeria. She has years of experience working directly with critical stakeholders in the agricultural ecosystem focusing on Agriculture and SDGs, policy advocacy, research, training and community development. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, she talks about her entrepreneurship journey and initiative Ag4SDGs, and more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Kindly tell us about African Harvesters and the gap it’s filling?
Serah: African Harvesters is an agribusiness hub for agricultural stakeholders across the African agribusiness value chains (farm to table). We fill the information gap in the industry, we agvocate youth engagement and investment in Agriculture, we also agvocate for women inclusion in Agribusiness.
Alaba: What sparked the interest?
Serah: Wow! I would say unemployment and passion for food security. I was a graduate out of the university searching for a job and I got an opportunity to work with an agribusiness association, that’s where was my interest in Agriculture rose.
Alaba: Could you share some of your challenges and how you’re navigating them?
Serah: Challenges are milestones to be crushed! As an organization, our major challenge is getting quality human resource as our volunteers. We resolved the challenge by giving incentives to our volunteers across Africa.
Alaba: How does Agriculture interact with SDG goals?
Serah: The main SDG that is Agriculture inclined is the SDG2 which is zero hunger. Zero hunger basically means no hunger. For this SDG to be achieved by 2030, this means that there would be no hunger as the case may be. For this to be achieved climate smart agriculture needs to be upheld which is SDG 14, gender equality and women inclusion in agricultural decisions which is SDG 10 and 5 respectively.
Aquaculture needs to be explored to attain food sufficiency which is SDG 14. SDG 15 interacts with Agriculture in the aspect of land degradation, biodiversity, afforestation etc.
Alaba: The Covid-19 pandemic has negative impact on the Agricultural value chain. What solutions will you proffer?
Serah: There should be synergy between every Agriculture stakeholders across the value chain. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the significance of synergy; government, developmental partners and private sectors needs to work together to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
Alaba: Are we post Covid-19 ready and what are the prospects to look out for?
Serah: Yes we are post COVID-19 ready. As an organisation, African Harvesters has always embraced digital solutions to our operations as we are in strategic countries across Africa, the pandemic has made us to re engineer our mode of operations.
Alaba: What support do you expect from the government?
Serah: The pandemic has added to the responsibility of the government to do better. I expect the government to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Multiple taxations is not the solution.
Alaba: Could you tell us more about your initiative, Agriculture for SDGs (Ag4SDGs) and it’s impact?
Serah: Agriculture for SDGs (Ag4SDGs) is our sustainability initiative at African Harvesters, we enlighten the public on the impact of Agriculture in solving the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). We hold online sessions to share more light on the relationship Agriculture has with the SDGs. We also teach kids on sustainability, food waste, hand washing, recycling, water management among other things. We plan to expand our reach on the Ag4SDGs initiative to schools and other African countries outside Nigeria.
Alaba: What’s the future for African Harvesters?
Serah: We envision being the go to resource platform for opportunities, agribusiness happenings across Africa. We also want to open up frontiers for funding opportunities for the platform- African Harvesters.
Alaba: How are you encouraging young female entrepreneurs into the agribusiness ecosystem?
Serah: We at African Harvesters support women inclusion in Agriculture which is SDG 5 and SDG 10. We uphold gender equality, as a female founded startup we include women in all our opportunities with our developmental partners and negotiate equal benefits for our male and female beneficiaries.
B I O G R A P H Y
Serah Odende is an outstanding sustainability development advocate with experience in SDGs 2 and 12. She is the co-Founder and CEO of African Harvesters, an AgriMedia, marketing and advocacy startup based in Lagos, Nigeria. Serah is also a reputable digital transformation consultant with experience in training, digital marketing, social media, email automation and customer experience.
Serah Odende helps organisations position their brands on traditional and digital media.
Chidi Nwaogu: Multi Award-Winning Entrepreneur Launches Global Fellowship Program for Aspiring And Early-Stage Entrepreneurs
Chidi Nwaogu, Founder Publiseer (Source: Chidi Nwaogu).
On the journey to impact over 10,000 professionals before year-end, Nigerian serial tech entrepreneur and software developer, Chidi Nwaogu, launches a global fellowship program for those passionate about solving some of the world’s most pressing problems through innovation. Savvy Fellowship is built for those who want to build their own impact-driven business but don’t know how to, or for those who own an early-stage business and want to grow and scale their impact into new markets or verticals. It is a 12 weeks e-learning, assessment, and mentorship program, where individuals learn everything from ideation to venture-scaling. After going through the 12-week program, Fellows receive a Certificate of Completion to proudly share with their professional network.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many have lost their jobs and are now living in an uncertain world. I have decided to start the Savvy Fellowship, to equip passionate individuals with the necessary knowledge and skill they need to start their own impact-driven business and succeed as entrepreneurs,” says Chidi Nwaogu, co-founder at Savvy, multi-award-winning serial entrepreneur, and author of the ‘Dear Entrepreneur’ book series. “It’s no news that every day, I love sharing with others what I’ve learned from my experience as an entrepreneur, and Savvy is just an extension of that personal journey of sharing for me.
Savvy is a 12-week-long virtual fellowship program that runs throughout the year. Some of the things Savvy Fellows learn include fundraising for their business, building the right team to execute their business strategies, building buzz around their product or service, achieving product-market fit, scaling into new markets and verticals, and building customer loyalty and retention.”
Savvy Fellowship kicks off with a rigorous 12-weeks e-learning experience. Savvy Fellows get to learn how to start, build, and scale an impact venture. Using visual presentations, they get to answer all the relevant questions they need to kickstart their impact venture, gain early traction, achieve product-market fit, and scale into newer markets. Some of the things they learn during the program are ‘understanding their customer’, ‘building a product or service that effectively solves their key challenges’, and ‘effectively positioning their solution in the market.’ Savvy is for every impact entrepreneur, no matter what stage their venture is.
During the 12 weeks of learning, unlearning, and relearning, Fellows can test their understanding by taking weekly multiple-choice quizzes. Fellows use the weekly assessments to identify their strengths and weaknesses and work on improving their areas of weaknesses. While learning, Fellows are offered mentorship as well, from entrepreneurs who have built post-revenue businesses in diverse sectors, which is a great way to have a better understanding of their industry. The Savvy mentorship team includes nearly 60 changemakers from 20 countries, with a combined experience of over 250 years. Savvy also runs a peer-to-peer mentorship program that helps Fellows learn from each other, as they ask questions, and have other Fellows help answer them.
Savvy Fellowship launched on August 4, 2020, with its call for application. So far, nearly 10,000 applications from 71 countries have been received for the Savvy Fellowship program, and 1,222 Savvy Fellows (~10%) from 64 countries around the world, has been selected. The program intends to select 2,000 Fellows, so call for application is still open. There is no cohort, no application deadline, and no ethnic restriction, so you can apply today. Savvy accepts new Fellows between the ages of 18 to 40. It’s a rolling Fellowship program, so new applications are accepted, every day, year-round.
Interested individuals can apply to the Fellowship program from https://savvyfellows.com/apply/
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