Insurance regulators and operators from the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) are meeting in Liberia with a desire to harmonize and integrate the insurance sector within the region. The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), regulator of the Liberian insurance industry, is hosting the two-day meeting in Monrovia in collaboration with the West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA).
WAICA is the insurance body for all licensed and accredited insurance companies operating in all six WAMZ countries namely: Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and The Gambia.
Mr. William B. Coker, Secretary General and CEO of WAICA speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference yesterday, thanked CBL Executive Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones for hosting and sponsoring the WAICA conference in Monrovia.
Mr. Coker told this paper that WAICA and its stakeholder countries are working with the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) to bring about an integration and harmonization of the insurance practices within WAMZ-member countries.
“These countries are bringing into line their laws and practices in a harmonized and integrated faction for the insurance industry. This will allowed insurance companies of the WAMI to move from one country to another to do business with little hassles,” he said.
The WAICA CEO observed that the integration of the insurance industry within the WAMI and the WAMZ will create a formidable and strong operating market within the region.
Mr. Coker believes that a harmonized insurance sector will spur investment within member countries because insurance companies from sister countries would directly take more risks to promote investment in other countries.
“With this,” he said “more jobs will be created within the region.” Coker also observed that a harmonized insurance sector within the WAMZ will pave the way for a smooth transition to a single for the West African sub-region. “Both WAMZ and WAMI are closely working with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a smooth movement towards a single currency,” he stated.
With each member WAMZ country having its own insurance policy, however, it is crystal clear that WAICA faces uphill task in its desire to achieve a harmonization of the insurance industry of the region.
The CEO acknowledged this challenge during the interview and told our reporter that compromises would be made going forward.
“We recognize that the major challenge facing our integration process is the difference in policies and laws within member countries. Bringing these countries together can be a major challenge. Some economies are also small while the others are large. The laws are different by countries and so bringing these laws together will require sacrifices and compromises to accommodate other countries,” Coker added.
He insisted that there must obviously be compromises along the way. The West African Bankers Association (WABA) is also nursing similar challenge as the banking industry pushes for integration ahead of the future introduction of a single currency for West Africa.
Though WABA is far ahead in its integration and harmonization process, the Association is said to be lured into dealing with the different bank policies in member countries.
Mr. Coker disclosed that the capital markets within the WAMZ countries have also gone ahead with the integration and harmonization of their activities.
Meanwhile, the WAICA Meeting in Monrovia is a prelude the Council Meeting. Decisions reached at the WAICA Meeting must be endorsed by the Council before it becomes binding on member countries, Coker said.
WAICA was founded in 1973 by insurance institutions in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria, with the blessing of their respective governments.
WAICA’s activities in various member countries are still attended and supported by distinguished government personalities at ministerial and occasionally higher levels.
Because of the international nature and structure of the organization, it was agreed by the founding Fathers to locate the headquarters of WAICA in Accra, Ghana.
However, for various reasons the organization did not operate on a full-time basis for most of its existence and was manned on a part time basis from the offices of the then State Insurance Corporation, now State Insurance Company of Ghana.
The Current Executive Committee wanting to develop the organization into its full potential, and given the international make-up of the organization, has, after a rigorous selection process which included interviewing potential candidates from each of the member countries, appointed a Secretary General/CEO for the organization on a full-time basis.