Q&A with Dare Okoudjou, MFS Africa
Mobile Financial Services Africa (MFS Africa) has been set up to accelerate the emergence of mobile payment as a mainstream product across Africa, by facilitating the development and the operations of relevant value added services to mobile wallets.
There is a tangible opportunity in Africa to use the ubiquity of mobile phones to provide basic payment services to the largely unbanked and underbanked population of the continent, and MFS Africa intends to seize it.
Here, Dare Okoudjou, CEO at MFS Africa, discusses his organisations partnership with Hollard Insurance to offer insurance services on the mobile, initially in Ghana.
MMX: Why did you decide that it would be good to encourage people in underdeveloped countries to buy insurance?
DO: The need for insurance in developing countries has always been there, and quite frankly people have found various ways (formal and informal) to address that need.
The main problem is that these solutions tend to be inconsistent, unreliable, inefficient and as a result quite costly for the ordinary person. What we set out to do with mobile network operators on one side and an insurance specialist on the other is to leverage new possibilities brought about by mobile money, from available KYC data to agents networks, to make insurance market more efficient and more accessible to the masses.
MFS Africas partnership with MTN Ghana, Hollard and Microensure aims at doing just that, and mi-Life is our collective answer to the problems I mentioned earlier.
MMX: Insurance in developed countries is often hard to claim, as insurance companies desire all sorts of proof and use various loop holes to get out of paying at all, or full amounts. Have you changed the goal posts for this product to make it possible for people in Ghana to actually get paid out when something goes wrong, or are standards set to the same levels as they are elsewhere?
DO: You cant do the same things and expect a different result, goes the saying. In making insurance accessible to millions lots of things have to be done differently, starting with the trust. In a customer survey that we ran at the beginning of the project, more than two thirds of people we asked told us that they would prefer to buy insurance from a mobile operator than from an insurer.
There are many reasons behind this mistrust in insurance, but a key one is certainly related to the delay or the difficulty in getting claims paid. We have made addressing this issue a crucial element of our proposition and this is underpinned by the association with Micorensure, which has an incredible track record of getting claims paid in Ghana.
Part of the delay in claim processing is also the poor understanding by the beneficiary of the actual process and the required documentation. And we intend to address that through solid and continuous education of the agents so they can advise and guide clients through the process. We do realise that this is a key customer satisfaction metric and will be watching closely how we fare on that metric.
MMX: What were the challenges of this partnership and roll out?
DO: It was amazingly smooth especially given the number of parties involved. And I think the shared vision of transforming the insurance market in Ghana made us focus on the essentials (getting the right product at the right price tag) and helped us to make the necessary trade-offs. We have obviously had difficult moments, but overall it has been very smooth.
MMX: What were the successes?
DO: The first success in my opinion was to get a leading mobile operator such as MTN mobilised and ready to get involved in making insurance more broadly available and affordable. The second was a major insurer on board ready to do things differently so we can meet the challenge of transforming the industry. And the third one is to have actually come out with a compelling product, mi-Life, that answers the pain points customers are facing today in Ghana. We hope to celebrate, in the months or years to come, a much bigger success when we will get testimonials from millions across the continent that mi-Life has indeed made a difference in peoples lives.
MMX: Do you have any plans to add to this offering in Ghana with further products, and if so, what might those products be?
DO: Our immediate plan is to watch and perfect the current product; but we do have the intention to add a couple of flavours as soon as possible (e.g. a school fee cover whereby the school fees for nominated children will be paid for a period of time should the policy holder deceased).
MMX: What sort of uptake do you expect from this roll out, and is it aimed at a particular market segment? If so, whom?
DO: Once again it is too early to make any sort of projection as there still lot of unknown from the market side. We will be in a much better position to project in six to 12 months where we would have had meaningful market feedback that could lead to some tweak in the product and/or refinements to suits particular segments. At this stage we are targeting the broad mobile money user base.