Africa Leaders Magazine

JIHAN ABASS – Founder and CEO, Griffin Insurance & Lami Insurance Technology

Jihan Abass, a 28-year-old Kenyan woman, often walks into meetings full of puzzled faces as people crane past her looking for the boss of her new digital motor insurance company.

Abass is the boss.

“They would be surprised to see that it was actually me,” said Abass from her bright office in Nairobi, where almost every wall is covered in dry-erase marker scrawls.

Abass is founder and CEO of Griffin Insurance, which released its flagship mobile application on Friday. Griffin is Kenya’s first digital-only car insurance company, which lets customers pay in instalments and pause coverage if they travel abroad. Griffin will process claims in a week rather than the industry standard of 30 days, she said.

“It allows you to buy your insurance policy in less than two minutes,” said Abass.

In addition to the app, Abass’ 14-person team has another company, Lami, that sells the technology platform used to build Griffin so other businesses can use it to create their own digital insurance products.

Jihan Abass leads Lami Insurance Technology, an insurtech startup that builds tech infrastructure to help businesses design digital insurance products.

Africa’s insurance penetration rate was about 2.78% in 2019, significantly lower than the global average of 7.23%. “A lot of the time, people are relying on single sources of income, but they’re not insuring those sources of income so, if one thing goes wrong, they lose everything,” she tells Quartz Africa.

Abass believes the low penetration is because the traditional model insurance companies use—on the ground agents going to people to try to convince them to buy insurance products—cannot reach that many people. She also realized businesses such as banks and tech platforms may want to sell insurance products, but insurance companies don’t have the systems or capabilities to enable this.

Abass, a former commodity futures trader at a UK trading house, started Lami as an application programming interface, or API, that enables businesses to offer products such as vehicle and health insurance to customers. They can also use the API to manage risk by tailoring needs and digitizing their operations.

That’s the main vision for us—is really to create accessibility.

Many businesses have adopted Lami’s API since the company was launched last year. E-commerce platform Jumia uses it to power its insurance marketplace on its JumiaPay app. Stanbic Bank has used it to create a mobile insurance app and digitize its bancassurance—the selling of life assurance and other insurance products and services by banking institutions. Lami also operates Griffin, a car insurance app fully built on the startup’s API.

“How can we get insurance to as many people as possible, in the simplest and the easiest way?” Abass says. “That’s the main vision for us—is really to create accessibility.”

Lami raised half a million dollars in seed funding and aims to close a further funding round by March.

Abass, who grew up wakeboarding in the Indian Ocean at the weekend, always wanted to work in business. After graduating from university in London in 2015 she became a sugar trader and was one of a handful of women in the business, just as she is now.

Nairobi, a technology hub nicknamed “Silicon Savannah,” has attracted many entrepreneurs from places like the United States and United Kingdom.

“A lot of the CEOs here are not only men, but also foreigners,” Abass said. “You don’t really see faces like mine.”

Abass’ lightbulb moment came in 2016 at a restaurant when she learned her waiter didn’t have health insurance. Neither, she would later learn, did most Kenyans – health insurance coverage is about 19%, mostly under a low-cost government scheme, according to a 2018 paper in academic journal Health Systems and Reform.

Digital insurance can drive down the cost of all forms of insurance because it increases transparency of data and analytics, said Abass.

While the team’s first foray is in motor insurance (selling policies underwritten by Kenyan insurers including Pioneer and Monarch), they hope to use their platform — and encourage other companies to so — to provide other forms of insurance, she said.



Source: Reuters

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