Insurance is hope for the future
My name is Osée Gaétan Quenum, I am the general director of RAYNAL Assurances.
I was born in 1973 in Burkina Faso and started my higher education studying to become a priest. After a few years, however, my interests turned from Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas d’Aquinas to more worldly matters : after a short sabbatical, I started studying law at the university of Ouagadougou. My focus was on public law, and my master’s thesis was on the evolution of international criminal law. Once finalised, the idea was to become a lawyer. However, at the time of my graduation, they cancelled the bar examinations for two years running. As I wasn’t interested in the judiciary, I had to look elsewhere; so I took the tests to study at the international insurance institute of Cameroun.
I came back to Burkina to work as head of the fire and transport insurance department. A few years later, I shifted to technical risk insurances; and in 2008 I joined RAYNAL Assurances, where I’ve been technical director, deputy general manager and, now, general manager.
My interest in justice and law never left me, however, it just shifted. Instead of criminal law, I now looked into environmental law, which is the law of the future. While working in insurance, I got a French master’s degree in international and comparative environmental law. I’m currently working on my doctorate, although my PhD must often make way for professional engagements and teaching. I am very interested in the intersection of environmental law and insurance and on how to correctly assess environmental risk.
At the moment, there is no existing structure capable of assessing, let alone covering, environmental risk in Africa. Major risks aren’t covered. That’s why I’m currently trying to put something in place to meet the needs of the continent.
Insurance is about solutions, about safety, about hope for the future.
Insurance is a guarantee that you will never lose your entire investment, forcing you to start again from scratch. The emergence and solidification of insurance on the African continent is a sure sign of a growing middle class. An increasingly large group of young people have worked hard to get where they are, they have given a lot for their property, and they look towards insurance for protection. They are starting to believe in the future. As soon as they do, they’ll be willing to invest in things that will benefit them over time, developing initiatives and businesses that will pay back the investments in the long term, rather than today.
In the past, when something bad happened to someone in an African community, the world stopped. Everyone dropped whatever they were doing to provide support: emotional, financial or structural. These days, this societal pressure to provide assistance has lessened. While family and neighbours will still congregate to support you, this will last less long and be less expansive. Everyone has their own problems, and people need to learn to protect themselves, their families, their job, their property. They need to set something aside to provide for themselves, as they can no longer depend on the kindness of others.
The role of the insurer then is to create hope for the future, to accompany people and convince them of tomorrow’s existence. For example, in the past, people dreaded retirement. It’s what happened when you couldn’t contribute any longer, and instead were reduced to a burden, unable to provide for yourself, let alone others. But with insurance – for pensions, sickness, disabilities and even death – this has changed.
The Burkinabé put great store in property. Instead of buying a car, the Burkinabé will settle for a moped and save up to buy land to build their own home. Rather than spend money on fun, on perishable wares, we will be saving, investing and thinking ahead. It is this kind of mentality that is ideally suited for insurance, as it offers some peace of mind to people willing to postpone fulfilment, but are not willing to lose it altogether.
People in Burkina Faso are also returning to the land. In addition to their day-jobs, many youngsters will work a plot of land, growing their own vegetables and even keeping animals. On the one hand, this is a direct response to a growing uncertainty about food security and the agricultural value chain. When you can grow your own food, your future is safe. Many also use the products of their land to supplement their income, re-investing the profit. Lastly, when you grow your own food, you have full control of the use of pesticides and supplements, unlike when you have to buy foodstuffs.
The increased interest in small-scale agriculture has also led to some advancements. In many regions, it is now possible to grow food all year long, both in the wet and the dry season, through the cunning use of drip-systems and alternating crops.
RAYNAL Assurances is currently also developing climate insurance for these small-scale farmers, but we are having difficulty making it work due to the lack of disposable income of these smallholders versus the potential costs of climate risk on the other. We tried basing ourselves on the cotton growers’ insurance, but it’s not a complete match. This is one of the challenges I’m currently trying to solve.
BIO has invested in Africinvest, which has invested in Raynal Assurances.
Osée Gaétan Quenum is the general director of RAYNAL Assurances, this is his story.
Africinvest Fund II LLC.
Equity € 6,000,000.00 (2008)Middle East & North Africa, Tunisia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal
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