That is no less than 2.8% of Africans insured, which is less than half the global average of 6.3%, making it the least insured continent in the world. Despite the appalling numbers, there is good news. According to a McKinsey Report, most African countries have experienced double-digit insurance growth in local currency CAGR over the past five years, making the region the second fastest growing region for insurance globally after Latin America.
The fast-growing market indicates that insurtechs are actively providing various solutions to businesses and end-users to help them manage the risks associated with purchases ranging from buying cars to accessing accommodation.
In the latest development, Curaçao, a Nigeria-based platform that aims to drive insurance penetration in emerging markets through APIs that enable insurers to connect to digital distribution channels and manage their claims, has raised $3 million in seed funding. Founded by Henri mascot And John Dada in 2019, Curacel is building the “rails to make insurance work for the next billion Africans and to give businesses everywhere the technology to embed insurance for their users.”
Initially, Curacel was conceived as an electronic health information management platform for healthcare providers, enabling clinics to digitize and manage paper records, appointments, patient communications, billing and reporting through a web app. But soon the co-founders realized a much bigger problem for the healthcare industry, especially in the field of insurance.
While insurance penetration in Africa is very low, many insurers’ processes are time consuming, expensive and prone to fraud and waste because they use paper and outdated technology. As a result, African insurers lose billions each year on fraudulent, wasteful and abusive claims (FWA), leading them to be cautious and risk averse when dealing with customers. The pivot meant Curacel’s new company focused on providing technology to help insurers mitigate losses while digitizing and settling more legitimate claims, requiring only human intervention for quality control.
“At the end of 2019, we started solving a problem for health insurers regarding the infrastructure for digitizing claims. And our main thought when we started this was that insurance companies across the continent lost about 20% of their premiums to fraud, waste and abuse. Something had to be done to reduce fraud so that insurance companies can reinvest in creating lower-cost products for the end consumer,” Mascot said in an interview with gotechbusiness.com.
The YC-backed startup is doing to ensure what Flutterwave, Stitch, and Anchor have done with payments and banking services with their various APIs. The three-year-old company unbundles insurance products for various companies to increase inclusion and acceptance on the continent. So far, the technology has focused on claims distribution and automation.
The distribution company is essentially the embedded insurance product Grow. It is used by more than 100 companies, including banks, fintechs, logistics and e-commerce platforms in eight African markets: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Morocco and Egypt. Some of these customers, who according to Curacel are increasing their recurring revenues with their digital insurance products, include ALAT, Providus, PalmPay and Float.
On the other hand, claims automation is aimed solely at insurance companies, who use the platform to improve the efficiency and accuracy of their claims processes; Curacel currently has 20 partners, including AXA Mansard, Old Mutual and Jubilee Insurance. Curacel says its “AI-powered” infrastructure allows claims to be submitted and processed in real time, enabling insurers to shorten their claims cycle by more than 70% and process up to 10x more claims.
The Nigerian insurtech, which works with more than 5,000 service providers in eight markets, claims to have processed more than $100 million in claims since its inception. Last year, Curacel grew its transaction volume by 600% and increased its revenue by 500%, it said in a statement. The company’s revenue comes from charging an annual fee for claims processing and fraud detection. It also sets rates for premiums and charges companies for using its APIs.
While it currently works around claims and distribution, Mascot said Curacel would be looking to provide underwriting and insurance payment services through its APIs. Diversifying its products is one of the ways it aims to stay ahead of the competition, which is becoming fierce in the African insurance landscape. Companies such as Harlem Capital-backed Lami and Naspers-backed Naked offer similar services to increase insurance penetration in their respective markets.
“We have claims and distribution, those are our go-to products. Going forward, we want to deal with underwriting, payments, and so on. We want to build that platform that will allow insurance companies to run some or all of their businesses in our ecosystem over time,” said CEO Mascot on Curacel’s product roadmap.
During the conversation, Mascot mentioned several times that the insurtech is built to serve companies in emerging markets, not just Africa. The CEO hopes that Curacel’s recent rollout of services in North Africa via Egypt and Morocco will be a precursor to doing the same for companies outside Africa. For now, however, the company will use the investment to deepen its presence across the continent.
Investors in the seed round include Tencent, Blue Point Capital Partners, Pioneer Fund, Olive Tree Capital, Y Combinator and AAF Management and Elefund (investors in New York-based insurtech Sure; the latter also backed Pie Insurance) .
“Africa remains a relatively untapped market when it comes to insurance and technology offers the best opportunity to reach new users and deliver excellent services,” said Serik Kaldykulov, the general partner at Elefund, during the round. “Curacel has built a suite of solutions and an impressive track record of success, making us very excited to support them in their mission to use technology to drive insurance inclusion in Africa.”
Fitbit CEO James Park, Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola and Kuda CEO Babs Ogundeyi were among the individual investors in the launch round. Curacel says some executives from Covergenius, Zopper and Pie Insurance will join the advisory board as part of the round.