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.
Viero: A SaaS Platform Enabling Entrepreneurs Create Food Delivery App Without Code In 60 Seconds
Viero & Zistify Founders, Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude
Launching a food delivery start-up requires an entrepreneur to manage 4 aspects; Restaurants, Delivery Agents, Customers, and the most costly of them all, an application. Building a food delivery application can cost up to $60 000. There are also additional costs that need to be paid on a monthly basis to maintain and improve the application. “This is a major barrier to entry into the food delivery industry in Africa” said Basheer Phiri, the founder and CEO of Viero.
“Because of these high costs, we see a lot of food delivery Startups all over Africa serving the urban market, because it is big, and has enough customers to cover the development and maintenance costs and make a profit.” Basheer believes that food delivery Startups do not target township and non-urban areas because these markets need to be built from the group up, which means additional marketing costs and slower growth and adoption rates.
Therefore, coupled with the need to cover maintenance costs and the demand for growth and traction from investors, food delivery Startups prefer competing in the already established urban markets. This has led to high concentration in urban markets while non-urban markets remain relatively untapped.
“We saw this and realised that there was value that could be created” said Basheer. “After speaking to a few interested entrepreneurs, we saw that they could manage every aspect of the food delivery business, but could not afford to pay for an App. That is how Viero was born”
Viero is a SaaS Platform that enables entrepreneurs to create a food delivery web application with no code in 60 seconds. (Here’s how it works – https://youtu.be/1T9oxNtRDpM).
The platform built a standard food delivery application template and enables it to be cloned, rebranded and hosted through white-labelling. Entrepreneurs can use the application under a monthly subscription and have access to many features depending on their chosen plan. Entrepreneurs can also make changes to the layout and design of their app, all without any code.
Launched in South Africa on 1 June 2020, the platform has achieved amazing uptake thus far. 22 Apps in total have been created with 2 Food delivery Startups that are live and operating in South Africa and 20 other Startups preparing for launch. 108 orders have been delivered, with R4700 processed in transactions, 200 customer users, 16 listed stores and 45 delivery agents.
Viero was launched by UCT students Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude. They met in their first year in 2018 as residents of Smuts Hall Residence at The University of Cape Town, when they were introduced by a mutual friend who noticed their passion for entrepreneurship. Since then, they have worked together on several Startups and projects.
Basheer and Hopewell are not new to the food delivery industry. In 2019, they launched Zistify, a food delivery start-up for the university market. Zistify delivers food ordered from food vendors on campus through it’s app to university students and staff.
Viero is in capable hands and is ready to disrupt the food delivery industry in Africa. Currently raising a $100 000 seed round to incorporate logistics into its business offering, to bring in more talent to the team, and to continue building and improving the platform.
Meet The Resilient Black Brothers Saving The Planet One Car At A Time
AutoSparkle Owners, Jesse and Genesis Onomiwo (Image by: Jesse Onomiwo)
According to UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office in Nigeria, only 20% of SMEs manage to survive in Nigeria. The studies further states that “although everybody in Nigeria desires to become an entrepreneur, only 40% of the dreamers get to start, but no more than 20% survive. But one innovative Lagos-based company seem to have gotten the winds in its sails instead.
Founded by Jesse and Genesis Onomiwo in 2010 in Lagos Nigeria, Autosparkle is currently the world’s only waterless luxury car interior-only detailing company with an option of waterless engine cleaning. As a fully integrated professional operation that combines convenience with environmental sustainability, the company takes their services to their clients without messing up the environment with water and soap.
Autosparkle was selected and named one of Nigeria’s Top Emerging SMEs for 2019 by ConnectNigeria. And just last month, the company also got selected as part of 200 businesses out of 5,000 others to take part in the first ever Forbes Digital Accelerator Program for Nigerian businesses. This has further opened the company up to top venture capital firms, successful founders from Silicon valley and a host of highly respected resource persons from Google, LinkedIn and other renowned credible organizations.
But the journey for the founders of Autosparkle hasn’t always been rosy. One of the company’s founders, Genesis Onomiwo, had to drop out of school for a whole year in order to come establish the company in Lagos. His brother and co-founder also had to push his National Youth Service forward by one year. When the business failed to pick up as envisaged, Genesis eventually had to return to the university where he completed his first degree in Architecture. In all, Autosparkle failed more than 8 times before finally picking up. But all that is history now as the rewards of their perseverance and exceptional business acumen is now starting to pay off beautifully well.
Autosparkle spotted a critical gap in the car care market and has so far exploited it richly. The common neglect by car wash shops that popularly dot the roadside in Nigeria and the observed dissatisfaction of most customers with often rushed jobs made the brothers decide to start focusing on waterless cleaning of what they term the two most critical parts of the car; the interior and engine. Their approach to car cleaning is based on nanotechnology and covers everything from stain removal, vacuuming, leather and upholstery treatment, dashboard conditioning, roof cleaning, plastic/rubber/chrome trim polishing, to deodorization, and more.
The level of personalized attention given to the details is based on the fact that Autosparkle treats each car according to its unique needs. That’s why it could take up to 3-4 hours to get one car completely detailed. They do not overlook any part because no one sees them. As a mobile unit, they take their pampering experience to homes and offices in Lekki, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Ajah axes of Lagos Island and beyond in Nigeria. From the most executive to the most luxurious of cars, Autosparkle continues to renew the interior of cars for Nigeria’s affluent class and those expatriates living in Nigeria. And now a replacement for the word interior detailing.
Ultimately, the company is building the largest chain of environmentally friendly and convenient cleaning operations out of Africa. This covers waterless detailing (thorough cleaning) of luxury cars, aircrafts, boats, furniture and fittings in homes and other types of spaces. This company is certain one to look out for in the coming years.
Black Founders: Here are some fundraising and networking opportunities
In the past few weeks, the world has witnessed one of the largest civil rights movements in recent history. People across races, religions, geographies and social economic classes have joined together to demand justice, opportunity and respect for black people. As an African woman living in the US, I have personally seen and sometimes witnessed the ugly side of racism and racial bias. To make any meaningful difference, we must support each other in stamping out racism from not just the United States, but across the world. I am hopeful that this movement will bring practical solutions to the fight for social justice.
On the positive side, this movement has brought a renewed (and hopefully lasting) vigor and focus on black entrepreneurship. From venture capitalists to retail companies and professional communities, many institutions have committed to supporting black entrepreneurship in some way. If you’re a black founder, or looking to start a venture, now is the time to tap into new and existing resources and opportunities.
It might be difficult to keep track of them all, so I have curated some key resources.
- Apply to join the 2020 cohort for the 1-week immersive course by Black Founder’s Exchange.
- SoGal x Atlas is limiting this year’s Cohort for “Building without Burnout” to Black Entrepreneurs. Apply by June 15, 2020.
- Clever Girl Finance is now offering all its Finance Resources and Courses for free!
- Apply to join the Transparent Collective which is helping underrepresented founders access the resources they need to succeed.
- Apply for a $10k grant from IFundWomen. Deadline June 15, 2020.
- Apply for a grant at the National Association for the Self-Employed (maximum $4k).
- Founder Gym wants to help you learn about fundraising and scaling tech ventures.
- Have a fintech startup and are looking for solutions for underserved populations, Accion Venture Lab wants to talk to you.
- Reach out to funds that are passionate about supporting black founders such as: Harlem Capital, Backstage Capital, New Voices Fund, Cleo Capital and Cross Culture Ventures.
- Nihal Mehta, Co-founder of Eniac Venture is offering free 15-minute mentoring sessions to Black founders.
- Jason Lemkin, VC Investor is reviewing decks and pitches of Black Founders.
- Ha Nguyen wants to meet with Black and Latinx founders.
Networking and Community
- Add yourself to the Black Founders List, and get visibility.
- Join Valence, a network of black professionals.
- Follow the Black Enterprise blog.
- The Plug has all your information needs.
- Plan to attend the Women in Tech Conference; happens every year. 2020’s is virtual and is happening in July.
This is a dynamic shortlist of resources I could gather online and from my networks- will continue updating. Are you aware of any great resources or opportunities?
Please comment below.
Article By: Dami Olagunju Founder, Lagos Young Professionals Innovation Club (LYPIC)