New products allows Kenyans abroad to ensure their family back at home are covered
By Tullah Stephen
Every year, Kenyans in the diaspora send billions of shillings back home to cater for various needs for their families.
According to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Kenyans abroad sent home a record KSh15.6 billion in the month of June 2016, representing a 6.3 per cent increase.
However, there have been concerns that some of the monies sent by relatives from abroad never reach their families back home.
For long, people in the diaspora have mostly relied on favours from relatives and friends to help them get the money to their families. But this sometimes proved costly. There are cases where people have been swindled millions of shillings as they send money back home through the seemingly trusted family and friends.
To avoid such scenarios, those abroad are now turning to private companies to help them connect to services in Kenya, especially those that require information and research such as securing an insurance cover for their family.
“People in the diaspora are constantly sending money home when their relatives are in need of medical treatment or a family member passes on. Unfortunately, they do not have sufficient information and networks to be able to research companies and signup family members for medical insurance or life insurance,” says Lucy Nguru, founder of WINPamoja, a US-based company that offers a platform for the diaspora to connect to service providers in Kenya.
Nguru says her company, in 2015, conducted a survey that revealed that life insurance is one of the areas that diaspora shied from because they felt there was insufficient information or professional point contacts to help address some of their questions.
“We saw this gap and thought of meeting the markets demand,” she Nguru.
Life insurance, she explains, is not something new to diaspora. However, most services available to the diaspora do not offer customer service experience that promote accountability and loyalty. Though there are several Kenyan Insurance companies angling for the diaspora life insurance business, most have remained unsuccessful in doing business with the diaspora.
Their main undoing, according to Nguru, are inefficient application, renewals and customer processes. This results in non-satisfactory customer experience leaving most Kenyans in the diaspora without Insurance products.
Initially, Kenyans who wished to secure a life insurance product would be required to sign up and then send the application forms back home for relatives and friends to follow up on the process. During claims, they would also ask for favours from relatives and friends to assist them in following up the claims.
But for Nguru, this was an opportunity. Her company, WINPamoja, approached APA Insurance Company in a bid to deliver Life Insurance in a unique way. She came up with WINSure, a life insurance product that allows diaspora direct control over their insurance policy.
The product allows its members to rest at ease while someone else runs their errands such as paper work and claims follow ups. Kenyans in the diaspora sign up through WINPamoja’s website by creating an account that allows them to include family members that they would like insured.
Members who sign up pay US$50 for each member of the family that they would want to insure per year. In return, the member gets US$5000 coverage. Through this product, one can insure family member of the age one month to 75 years.
Apart from insuring ones children and spouse, the product also allows members to insure their brothers, sisters, and grandchildren to whom they will be expected to contribute in the event of their death.
The Insurance application process, Nguru says, takes into consideration that getting families to send copies of their documents to the USA was proving to be a challenge. But with their service now, the diaspora do not engage in the stress of delivering documents to Kenya. WIN Pamoja, through its office in Kenya, handles the process on their behalf. There is no waiting period as the Policy is effective immediately.
Diaspora can continue to keep the insurance policy if they relocate back to Kenya. Similarly, insured family continue to keep coverage if they travel outside Kenya.
In addition, WIN Pamoja has negotiated on behalf of the diaspora to exclude additional elements such as Insuring the Policy Holder and allowing for Cash withdrawal. This makes it affordable to diaspora including students.
“With the improved end-to-end operations, diaspora are now recipients of their insurance claims, which can be used towards funeral expenses, travel to Kenya. and education of bereaved children,” says Nguru who has lived and worked in the US for the last 16 years.
“Our end goal is to provide a platform through which diaspora can access Insurance claims within 7 to 14 days so that they can contribute towards funeral expenses and buy air tickets to travel to Kenya.”
WINPamoja is currently available to all Kenyans that reside outside US.
“We began pushing the product in USA in May 2016. Today, we are very proud to report that through word-of-mouth, we now have account holders in Germany, UK and Italy. We have customers that have been very kind to do referrals because they are happy with the product and our services,” says Nguru, adding that almost 50 per cent of sales are from referrals from existing parents.
A lot of referrals, she adds, are to immediate family and community members.
One of her main challenges, she says, is competition. Life Insurance providers in Kenya are some of her largest business competitors since the diaspora have an open opportunity to insure their families through them.
An analysis by Cytonn investment reveals that the country’s ratio of insurance companies to total population is at 51 insurers serving 47 million people. This is compared to South Africa where 175 companies for 55 million.