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.
Black Canadians making travel safer for women by helping them rent spaces from other women with Femmebnb
Femmebnb Inc. Co-Founders, Yaa Birago and Diana Obeng (Source: Yaa Birago)
Dismayed by her solo travel experience in 2017, Yaa Birago made it her goal to curate a safe space where like-minded women travel enthusiasts can come together to plan, book, meet, talk, and share everything about travel. Softly launched amidst pandemic, Femmebnb Inc. is the first-ever social networking short-term vacation rental service powered by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) travel assistant that is at the forefront of reshaping ‘Women’s travel experience’, once the world reopens.
After being sexually harassed in-front of her airbnb apartment in Rome, and receiving no support from her male bnb host, Yaa Birago – CEO and co-founder of Femmebnb Inc., felt unsafe and unpleasant for the rest of her trip. This is exactly what was told to her when she announced her solo travel to her family – it’s unsafe! With this experience and the urge to change the travel horizon for women, the idea of Femmebnb sprung in her mind.
The validation of a need to have a platform and community that is solely for women travellers & hosts came from a survey initiated by Femmebnb where over 229 women shared that they would feel more secure knowing their host is a female, and that the rental is booked via a platform that deeply understands these concerns. This is the reason why Femmebnb has already received over 3000 registrations by women from 60 countries on the platform despite the travel industry being on hold due to COVID-19.
Source: Yaa Birago
“Being a hodophile, I was extremely disappointed when my solo travel to Europe turned out to be a nightmare as I faced sexual & street harassment. Upon receiving no support from my male bnb host when I discussed the incident with him, I realised that a female host would have naturally been more emphatic. This, combined with the help I attained from a female companion in France with whom I had merely chatted on Facebook before my travels, affirmed that we need to curate a safe social networking vacation rental space for only women where common concerns can be addressed and resolved together. This embarked the idea of Femmebnb in 2017. After 3 years of persistence and determination, fused with technology, creativity and research, we have finally launched and are ready to change ‘her travel experience’. – Yaa Birago, CEO & Co-Founder, Femmebnb Inc.
When Yaa proposed the idea to an old ally Diana Obeng, she jumped in right away to co-found the company with her.
Diana Obeng, Co-Founder, Femmebnb Inc. – “As a woman, I shouldn’t have to hope and pray that my safety is not at risk when I am planning to travel solo in a new country, but unfortunately, that’s the first thought that comes to mind. I cannot downplay that women fear their safety over every other concern related to traveling alone. Hence, when Yaa proposed the idea of curating a safe space for women travelers, I jumped on board in a heartbeat. We are determined and have invested every bit of our soul into this project and I am excited to help reshape ‘women travel experience’.”
Femmebnb is an exclusive membership platform, ensuring that every member on the platform is vetted. The verification process consists of 5 steps: email, phone, government ID, property documentation/utility bill and/or video verification. The on-site personality video feature facilitates trust and credibility between the host and guest. For the time being, a one-time subscription fee of $4.99 has been waived off the platform, making it free for all to register!
Source: Yaa Birago
A portion of every transaction made on the site for bookings goes towards providing menstrual equity, menstrual hygiene education and menstrual products to girls in Africa as a means to help eradicate period poverty.
(By woman/women, Femmebnb Inc. means anyone who identifies as a woman, non-binary, gender-fluid or non-conforming (womxn).
Yaa Birago’s Short Bio
Source: Yaa Birago
Yaa Birago is a tech entrepreneur, Co-founder and CEO of FemmeBnB Inc.; the first social networking vacation and short-term rental platform that allows women to rent their spaces to other women in hopes of maximizing safety, peace of mind and comfort, along with AI- Powered Travel Companion to help women plan their trip from start to end. She started the company to provide safe space and peace of mind for women travelers after she had a terrifying experience as a solo traveler in Rome.
Yaa holds a B.A degree in Criminology and Sociology from the University of Windsor but her passion for tech, women and children advancement led her into the Information Technology and Non-Profit sector for the past 11 years. Yaa is also the Co-Founder and President of Hands of a Hero Foundation (HOHF), a non-profit organization that provides mentorship, leadership, and career development programs for youth and children in Canada and Ghana. Yaa was a recipient of Global Impact Award and Women’s Courage International Award.
She was named as a Black Canadian Role Model and Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada. In addition, she was selected as Top30 under30 Pioneers by FOG and in March 2020, she was recognized as WOCStar Woman to Watch. Moreover, Yaa was recently recognized as the TOP 20 Women CEOs in Vacation Rental Tech by VR Tech and the Top 25 Women in the Travel Industry by TravelPulse.
Yaa is passionate and enthusiastic about travel technology, women travel safety, sustainable travel, and improving women’s travel experiences across the globe.
Bordeaux-based Nigerian Wine Consultant creating the French Experience with an African twist
Bordeaux-based Nigerian Wine Consultant, Chinedu Rita Rosa (Photo: Roger Das)
Most times when you think of a French wine expert, especially in Bordeaux, a strong-willed, driven and passionate Black Woman doesn’t come first to mind.
Chinedu Rita Rosa is making waves in the Bordeaux wine community. As a Nigerian Black Woman in her 40’s, she is a rare and long-overdue sight in the wine industry. Over the past six years, she has built a home in Bordeaux with her two teenage daughters and French husband.
For over 20 years Rosa has been active in the wine industry, though she came into the wine business by chance, as an unofficial adviser to her late husband selecting wines for importation into Nigeria. Originally working as a banker, wine did not become her profession until the passing away of her late husband in 2008 who was a Lebanese businessman.
In 2008 she returned to Nigeria and worked with her late Husband’s Friends in XO Wine Store as a Manager where she was in charge of organizing various wine events, teaching wine appreciation, and increasing the selection of wines from all over France. She did all this with minimal professional experience. She likes to put it into simple terms that anyone could relate to, “ I learnt while drinking on the job!”
With Nigeria being a beer-drinking society it was not an easy sell for wines, when she first started, although it was a delightful process, Rosa mentioned. She witnessed, ChiChi (as she is fondly called by her friends) mentioned. She witnessed, seeing the shift of peoples’ opinions about wine, especially when she found the right wine to pair with a client’s palette. Meeting people and discerning their taste and discovering their wine preference is an art that she is passionate about.
“As the years went by, it became much easier to match wines with clients taste” said Rosa. It was during this time that she also acquired knowledge of wine importation, wholesales, retailing and grassroots marketing strategies due to the distribution network of XO Wine stores.
After her first year, Rosa knew this was a profession that she would like to pursue, she continued studying, tasting and enjoyed experimenting with wine tasting pairings. She turned her wine education into a social circle with clients and friends who were also wine lovers. For her, these were some of the most rewarding best moments of her wine career.
Bordeaux-based Nigerian Wine Consultant, Chinedu Rita Rosa (Photo: Roger Das)
She discovered how African foods reacted to different grape varieties and from different wine regions, not forgetting Champagne. She boosts “ If you haven’t tried eating àsun or suya with red wine, you must; it is not to be missed”
It was important to ensure sure that all her knowledge of wine and the industry was accredited, which led her to Bordeaux, where she learned about the technical side of winemaking, regions, and styles. Chinedu found herself the only black and African student for the entire term of the course. In the first step of her official wine studies, received a certification from the school of wine in Bordeaux “Ecole Du Vin.” She is a true believer that the best wines come from Bordeaux.
A fabulous wine lovers group was established in the spirit of the numerous tastings and to date, it exists in Lagos exclusively for members of the XO Family.
Continuing her wine education journey in Bordeaux was a dream and when she decided to re-marry and move to France there was no second-guessing where she was going to call home. Chinedu says,” Naija women are born Entrepreneurs.”This drove her ambition and she ventured into media marketing, blogging, and vlogging in the wine world of Bordeaux, and she also created a networking community where she is the president of like-minded people and entrepreneurs from all over the world that has settled in Bordeaux. The Bordeaux Business Network has over 1000 members and is a thriving support community for expat entrepreneurs.
In Bordeaux, Chinedu has become known as the black lady who is invited everywhere and also hosts a lot of events (not unlike in Lagos!) due to her professional commitments. She attends most wine and entrepreneurial events in the Bordeaux metropolis and is easily distinguishable as a black businesswoman with a glowing smile.
Does this bother her? She has mixed feelings on the subject, Chinedu takes no issues with being the ONLY anywhere, it is a testament to her African upbringing after all. “‘Naija no dey, carry last,” she says. and Being yourself and standing out is important, but she is driven to encourage other black entrepreneurs and young people to come into this profession, where she believes the possibilities are endless.
Chinedu is a distinguished WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) certification, holder. Her wine knowledge spans the process of winemaking to marketing and exportation. She had envisioned that there would be more people of color in the wine industry with her qualifications that she could connect with on a cultural level but she is still left searching. She hopes that this will start to change soon.
Bordeaux-based Nigerian Wine Consultant, Chinedu Rita Rosa and friends (Photo: Roger Das)
As the founder of VINES BY ROSA, an import and marketing company based in Bordeaux she now collaborates with amazing brands, representing them in African Markets. Some of her most notable representations include: CHATEAU DAUZAC, MARGAUX GRAND CRU CLASSE, HINCH IRISH WHISKEY, NINTH WAVE GIN, LGI WINES. These brands are Winemakers that tailor to the African Market specifically creating labels and even Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne.
Always thinking about the future Chinedu wants to continue to build on her passion, education, and dedication, increasing the quality of wines and spirits being imported into Africa and propelling wine appreciation in the continent. She is on a mission to demystify the art of wine tasting and bring good wine to every table at the right price. In the process of this journey, she hopes to inspire other black men and women to join the wine industry and looks to the day where she is not the, I am almost always the only professional BLACK (Woman) at tasting events and business functions, especially here in Bordeaux. “I want to change that,” she ends.
Taking it one- step at a time to secure long-overdue space for aspiring Black women in the wine industry, through the success of Vines By Rosa, she hopes to inspire more people to take their passion and dreams forward.
Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care is bringing petcare to your home
Vetwork Inc Founders, Abdelreheem Hussein and Fady Azzouny (Source: Vetwork)
Pets today are considered family members, best friends, confidants, and so much more. Taking care of them requires more than just love and dedication, but also the right knowledge to recognize when something is not right. Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care industry one country at a time and its mission is to make pets healthier, pet owners happier. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Fady Azzouny Founder and CEO of Vetwork Inc talked about his entrepreneurship journey, his vision for petcare with Vetwork and the future plan. Excerpts.
Alaba: Why did you start and what’s the passion behind it?
Fady: Petcare should be easy, as it stands its full of inefficiencies for both pet parents and vets. Instead of a crowded clinic with a waiting time of 30-45 minutes, vets come to you at home at the time you choose. Rather than try to muster up a massive amount of money to fund a clinic, vets can practice their services without any initial cost and make extra money to live a better life.
The vision of regulating the petcare industry involves a lot of innovation, our dream is to use the available technologies to make everyone’s lives easier and right now we’re on the right track.
Alaba: What is your background?
Fady: I graduated as a veterinarian, but I consider myself an entrepreneur. I saw some problems in the veterinary market while I was still studying and started a bunch of projects, with a few of them turning into medium sized companies. My initial problem was the absence of technology in my solutions, with Vetwork I think we can really achieve my vision of making petcare easier.
Alaba: What are the problems you are solving and what is your value proposition?
Fady: Its simple, we are solving the problem of finding a good vet by selecting our vets from a pool of more than 1000 annual applications. And the problem of waiting in the clinic through Home visits available 24/7. Also, we are addressing Vets problems of low wages and salaries by offering them easy access to extra income.
Vetwork is reliable, affordable and available petcare.
Alaba: Tell us more about the process, users, business model!
Fady: As we stand the process is the same across Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate (UAE). We onboarded more than 300 vets across these three countries. These vets help us cater to our customer’s needs. A pet parent can log into our website or app and request a service at the time of their choosing. A vet will be assigned and introduced to the client.
The vet will then arrive, conduct the visit and deliver a detailed orientation on the tips and tricks of petcare. Our medical records also allow us to follow-up with our pet parents to make sure that everything is going according to plan and their pet is getting better.
Alaba: What are your main challenge?
Fady: Since we promise to deliver all your pets needs to you, finding the right groomers, trainers, vets and boarding facilities is always a challenge due to our strict onboarding guidelines.
Alaba: What is your achievements and coming plan?
Fady: After launching in three countries our plan is to start expanding further into the MENA region and build our presence in the countries that need us the most. Our tech infrastructure allows us to launch in any country in a matter of days and we plan to take advantage of this to test markets and become your pets partner anywhere in the Middle East.
Alaba: Do you think the ecosystem support you?
Fady: Ideas and mentorship, we’re always happy to learn and listen to other people’s ideas on how we can make petcare an easier process. We try our best to promote pet adoption since a lot of shelters are full of pets that need a home. Access to people with a wider audience can surely help us deliver our message to the people that need us the most.