Affordability is one of the biggest barriers to insurance penetration in Kenya. Often, policyholders have to make one-time payments for long-term coverage, and the amounts listed are usually out of reach for most people. It is this gap that Kenyan insurtech MotiSure working on sealing.
The startup, which targets motorcycle taxi operators (boda boda), their passengers, and users of other forms of public transportation (hereinafter referred to as commuters), is building a business around daily micropayments for personal accident coverage, with some premiums as low as $ 0.1 .
Users can sign up for the USSD code service and make payments with mobile money. The API-powered platform uses technology to disrupt a market largely dominated by traditional insurance companies, many of which are reluctant to give up lengthy paperwork and traditional payment modalities for both premiums and claims.
“We provide safety nets through insurance at affordable prices and through easily accessible channels,” MotiSure, CEO & Co-Founder Joel Macharia told gotechbusiness.com.
Personal accident coverage for motorcycle taxi operators, which requires a $0.1 day ($3 per month) premium, includes medical expenses up to $6,000 per year, and payment for lost income due to hospitalization following an accident, disability, or death . Riders must pay consistently for at least seven days to enjoy the benefits.
MotiSure looks at a market with more than 1.4 million registered motorcycles as of government date (2018). The number is growing, with 210,103 motorcycles being imported into the country in 2020; with a 20% increase in imports in 2020 and 15% last year, motorcycles remain a popular mode of transport in Kenya and across Africa†
Commuters are also eligible for personal accident cover for every trip they make, with the premiums they pay based on the length of the trip. Unlike the riders, the commuters are immediately eligible for benefits and MotiSure is looking at a an estimated 1.53 million commuters who use public transport every day.
Launched last July, the startup has partnered with a number of public vehicle companies in Kenya to test their product.
“One of the barriers to entry is cost, so we’ve settled on these micro-payments and pay-as-you-go to make the cost a little bit more negligible so people don’t mind paying,” Macharia says.
The Micro Insurance Company (formerly MicroEnsure), which operates in many emerging markets, is the startup’s underwriter.
Macharia said their approach was based on studies showing that boda boda riders wanted insurance products beyond asset coverage. In Kenya, all vehicles, including motorcycles, must at least have third-party liability insurance (which is what most policyholders get), usually the cheapest option but exposing the owners of the assets in the event of an accident. This is despite the fact that motorcycle accidents account for about 20% of road accidents in Kenya.
“Existing extended or third party coverages do not cover the rider or pillion passengers. And we found out that because of the nature of their job, they (riders) wanted coverage that could cover eventualities like hospitalization, death, or disability. Most of these operators are breadwinners and they wanted their families to be well looked after in case things went wrong. They were also eager to do minor bike repairs… we sorted this out for them,” said Macharia, adding that it was important to take the time to research and talk to potential customers to bring the product up to market .
“The way we’ve made our product is very unique. We went to the customers first to understand their patterns. We sat down with groups of people in different regions of the country and asked them what they wanted in insurance coverage. Then we came up with a list of similar coverages that they wanted and we wrote them down and had them come up with what was the most relevant and the most convenient way to make the payments,” Macharia said.
Macharia’s interest in the industry began in 2018 when he launched a motor vehicle micro-insurance product based on data and patterns he observed while running an auto repair shop. He wondered why most of his customers who only used their cars on weekends were required to sign up for an annual policy.
However, the idea didn’t get off the ground, as the local partners he designated to help roll it out weren’t as helpful. He was not one to be easily rejected, but he started building the necessary technology and carrying out the idea as he envisioned, starting with the masses.
Macharia said they have nearly 10,000 policyholders and currently have a capacity of up to 15,000, but they will open up to more people as the startup grows and as they partner with third parties to embed the coverage into other services. He has his eyes set on other markets as well.
“The same issue is occurring in East Africa and we are looking at how we can offer this in other regions of Africa as we scale the business, expand the customer base and improve our products.”