Swiss Re at the World Economic Forum Africa 2019

Putting the spotlight on climate resilience and economic empowerment

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6 out of the top 10 fastest growing economies in the worlds are in Africa, making it one of the most dynamic and exciting regions for business.  The 28th World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in Cape Town from 4-6 September 2019 will be drawing together smart institutions, governments, industries and other stakeholders to discuss how a new regional architecture should support stronger collaboration around investment, integration, industry and innovation. Swiss Re will be on site in Cape Town focusing on ways to scale up climate resilience and economic empowerment.

Significant economic and political progress has been made in Africa over the last decade. Wealth is increasing, especially in urban centers, yet so are is climate-stress related to drought, floods, and variability in rainfall. There is therefore an increasing challenge to build the economic resilience necessary to ensure that the progress made can withstand the shocks of such catastrophes.

Strengthening climate resilience through insurance and risk management

Cyclone Idai, is one of the deadliest tropical cyclones to affect Africa on record. The storm raged for almost three weeks in March 2019 causing death and destruction, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for their survival.  The Swiss Re Institute recently reported that the overall economic loss for Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe was in the order of USD 2 billion, of which only 7% will be covered by insurance. This is a 93% protection gap.

As the Indian Ocean is rapidly warming such events are likely to become more frequent. Based on the lessons learned from Idai, future events of similar dignity do not need to come as a surprise. Although the protection gap is huge, this is not to say that nothing has been done in Africa. But in order to scale up risk management and insurance protection allowing people and communities can plan better and get back on their feet faster, we need to acknowledge that there is a whole economic ecosystem required to strengthen resilience practices and make insurance work.

Beat Strebel, Head of Africa and Middle East, Swiss Re explains that the climate change crisis must be a priority. "We anticipate that weather events are going to get worse before they get better, he said. "Importantly, it's an existential crisis for millions of people, and we want to lead the way to ensure that governments, corporations and individuals can access the financial cover they need to protect themselves better against these risks in future."

How innovative insurance advances economic empowerment and strengthens the economy

The imperative to close protection gaps not only helps tighten the safety nets on climate change, it also helps to advance economic empowerment. That's one of the reasons for Swiss Re's commitment to close the insurance protection gap that will allow millions of people across Africa to access the health care they require.  One example is Hemayet Lead, a health insurance scheme that forms part of the Lead Foundations micro finance services. This product has changed the outlook for almost 200.000 women with small businesses based in Egypt.

The Hemayet programme is driven by four main partners; the Lead Foundation; Women's World Banking, Axa and Swiss Re. Mario Wilhelm, Head Public Sector Solutions in Africa and Middle East for Swiss Re says that the cover not only makes the beneficiaries and their entire families more secure, it strengthens their opportunities for better education and future income potential. "When we set out on the journey in Egypt with our partners we knew it was something special. But understanding how many women’s lives we've touched makes us very proud to be part of this important initiative. We must make sure that initiatives such as these are also made available in other parts of Africa. Where women prosper, families prosper, and entire economies prosper."

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