ZIC eyes tapping blue economy benefits

Zanzibar Insurance Corporation chief executive officer Arafat Haji. PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • The blue economy has many things and one of them is tourism. So, our insurance firm is well prepared to ensure hotels are covered to protect guests and owners in case of an uncertainty

As Zanzibar is pushing ahead with the blue economy agenda, Zanzibar Insurance Corporation (ZIC) is also looking at related emerging opportunities. ZIC chief executive officer Arafat Haji explains how these opportunities will power the economy in an interview with The Citizen reporter Gadiosa Lamtey. Read on:


QUESTION: Zanzibar is currently executing its blue economy drive, how does your organization exploit emerging opportunities to help grow the economy?

ANSWER: The blue economy has many things and one of them is tourism. So, our insurance firm is well prepared to ensure hotels are covered to protect guests and owners in case of an uncertainty. By compensating them, it will enable the economy to regain and grow, increase number of tourists while locals would retain their jobs.

Recently, we launched medical evacuation insurance targeting tourists who mostly prefer beaches that are on the outskirts of the city where roads are yet to be fully developed.

With such a service, if a tourist develops a health emergency, a helicopter will pick them. This increases trust in the local tourism market, this is one of our contributions to the blue economy drive.

Also, we are in talks with the government to ensure that when a tourist arrives in the country, they get a travel insurance from a local firm. Once they pay the premiums, the money remains local and that adds the amount of foreign exchange that will remain here.

On the same note, Zanzibar has recently shown signs of oil and gas in the deep-sea, which is also another blue economy opportunity. We are now planning to build capacity of some of our employees so that they can be ready to provide insurance for those big projects when the time is ripe.

Personally, I recently went to Uganda to learn how they participate in the oil pipeline from Hoima to Tanga. I learnt of challenges they faced and how they tackle them in attempt to ensure some premiums remain in the country instead of going overseas.


Q: How do you tap the opportunity in Islamic Insurance (Takaful) which Tanzania Insurance Regulatory Authority (Tira) recently issued guidelines for its rollout?

Takaful has been positively received in Zanzibar and people need it. Basically, ZIC was the first to apply for the establishment of Takaful which is based on Islamic principles. So, when the guidelines came out, it was very great news. ZIC plans to establish a subsidiary company that will be dedicated to handle Takaful only.

We have already secured a consultant who will guide us on how to provide the insurance. We are also in negotiations with the government so that it can provide a guarantee of Sh2.5 billion which will be the initial capital of the subsidiary company.


Q: What was ZIC’s performance in the last three years?

Our performance has continued to accelerate year after year despite internal challenges and the presence of Covid-19. In that period, we were able to increase premiums from Sh19 billion to Sh20 billion.


Q: What are the strategies to make the organization more profitable?

After being appointed in June 2021, one of my responsibilities in reviving the organization to increase profits was to change the working culture and guide staff to do away with the ‘doing business as usual’ syndrome, instead of responding to the market needs.

Another thing was to change the communication system and strengthen the digital systems which have helped reduce operating costs and fraud loopholes because most of the systems were analogue.

I also established a performance management system that measures staff performance every year.

All the changes have helped to increase the performance we plan to increase premiums from Sh20 billion to more than Sh40 billion by the end of the year.

Currently, ZIC is run as a department instead of being a corporate entity. You know, private companies have quick decisions and go with the speed of the market. Right now, we are in negotiations with the government to allow ZIC to do modern business.

The government should give us a target and we meet at the Annual General Meeting. By doing so, it will therefore help many decisions such as purchases to be made quickly.

We are also looking at the possibility of bringing young people from the private sector with digital skills to make the business alive and respond to foreign customers who want quick answers.