Old Mutual has officially launched its subsidiary Old Mutual Botswana Life Insurance Company with a goal to participate more meaningfully in growing the local economy and improve the lives of Batswana. Headed by the youthful Thebe Modikwa as Managing Director, Old Mutual Botswana Life will work to shift public perception of life insurance from a simple funeral policy and short-term goal, to a holistic tool that can be used to preserve wealth and give the next generation a better start in life.
As he walks up the stage to give his address at the launch held at the Phakalane Golf Estate in the Phakalane suburb recently, Modikwa starts of by putting this question before the audience “Does Botswana need another life insurance company?” With a population of as little as over 2 million served by the current eight life insurance companies, can that be more than enough?
Modikwa says that numbers can be deceiving and further elaborates that taking a closer look at the life insurance market today, it can be described as an oligopoly. Oligopoly is a market structure in which a small number of firms has the large majority of market share. An oligopoly is similar to a monopoly, except that rather than one firm, two or more firms dominate the market.
In its latest annual report, NBFIRA, the insurance industry’s regulators says that of the eight life insurers the top two life insurers share a chunk of 87.5 percent of the market share. Modikwa says this shows that clearly there is no real competition. Based on these statistics Old Mutual Life Botswana believes life insurance is not just about funeral expenses and the elaborate send-off for loved ones. As he explains and share his life experience at Varsity days, Modikwa says, “Life insurance is a tool for preserving wealth and giving the next generation a better start in life than the previous one.
“When I was at university I had a friend, who stayed in his own flat. I stayed in a flat too. I paid rent. He owned his flat! Given that we were both young and none of us were working, how did he get to own his own flat and avoid paying rent? On closer inspection, it was revealed that this flat was made possible by funds arising from a life insurance policy for one of his grandparents. This friend of mine clearly had a leg up in life over me.”
The youthful MD says what stops a lot of people is not the lack of a good idea, it is the lack of capital and/or a sufficient safety net. As the eldest sibling of three, when he started working like many people he had to help with the education of his youngest sibling. Starting a business at an early age meant a few more difficult calculations than he would have liked. “Many Batswana dream of viable businesses and even with the commendabl
e assistance from government, for the people who are most likely to succeed in the more technical businesses currently dominated by foreign companies e.g. banking and even insurance,” he says.
He elaborates further that those people who are well educated, and have work experience, the leap of faith is often too big. A culture of purchasing life insurance policies is an effective mechanism for ensuring that the generations following us can be more daring than we as a generation could be.
“If life insurance is so good, why is it that only a few people have more than a simple funeral policy? Are we only concerned about short term goals?” Modikwa paints the insurance industry as one that has failed to come up with suitable products that can be distributed to the underserved particularly in villages, who also want a better life for their children.
He says the failures for the industry is also sometimes, regrettably, caused by own greed. For example, he admits that as insurance companies, “we take advantage of people looking for credit by loading the life insurance premiums they are compelled to take with all sorts of fees and commissions which are not commensurate with the services we offer or the risk we are taking.”
This he said must change and Old Mutual Life hopes to take the lead and believes that more affordable credit insurance will allow more people to take up credit and participate more meaningfully in growing the economy and living happier lives. It is for these reasons that by enabling positive futures, Modikwa says the Botswana market needs another life insurance, hence Old Mutual Life.
No stranger to the Botswana landscape, Old Mutual has been present in the country since 1994 having originally opened its doors as Mutual & Federal, before rebranding in 2004 as Old Mutual Botswana. Jonas Mushosho, Chief Executive Officer for Old Mutual Africa, says that the rebrand formed part of Old Mutual’s five-billion rand expansion plan into Africa so that is could effectively service the continent’s growth and its people.
He says that the short-term insurance business originally entered the Botswana market when the need became apparent that household and