Junior Ngulube. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Junior Ngulube. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Abidjan — Africa’s biggest insurer is eyeing double-digit growth on the continent as it partners with Standard Chartered to enhance its digital offering in more countries and emulate lessons learnt from its business in India.

“The official launch is still to come, but we’re already in development stage with them,” Junior Ngulube, vice-chair of the Sanlam pan-Africa unit, said in an interview in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast.

The West African nation is one of the countries where services such as automotive and home insurance will be rolled out and distributed digitally, he said, without giving further details.

Sanlam is piggybacking London-based Standard Chartered’s push into digital services across the continent, while also learning lessons on how to meet the needs of disadvantaged sectors of society through its partnership in India, which has done a lot of digital work, he said.

Present in 33 countries following the acquisition of Saham Finances in 2018, Sanlam is also looking at local partnerships in Egypt and Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia’s a bit tricky, because the market is not open, but we are discussing co-operation, not shareholding, so that should be better,” said Ngulube, adding that it would put them in a strong position when the market opens up.

Meanwhile, the global spread of the coronavirus means that the rebranding of Saham has been put on hold to perhaps later this year because it involves traveling, he said.

The integration of the businesses across Arabic, anglophone, francophone and lusophone Africa has gone “very well” and the companies will now focus on extracting synergies following the $1.1bn deal in 2018. Countries across Sub-Saharan Africa have followed other nations in shutting borders, limiting travel and the size of gatherings to contain the virus.

Ngulube, an insurance industry veteran who’s been doing business across the continent for decades, smiles as he recalls the first management meeting after the Saham transaction. “I had to bring in simultaneous translation because you cannot expect French speakers to suffer two days of listening to English, it gets exhausting after a time.”


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