Liberia: CBL Urges Insurance Companies to Increase Penetration Risks to US$100M

... But insurance companies aim to exit CBL’s regulatory power

The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has encouraged the insurance industry to apply more efforts to increase penetration risks, saying the "economy is carrying more risks and need institutions to mitigate the risks.”

The CBL revealed that this year, the companies, under the banner of the Liberia Insurance Association (LIA), have exceedingly improved in gross premium intake of US$30 million, but are urged to increase risk penetration in “two or three years” to US$100 million.

The CBL is the regulator and supervisor of financial (banking) and non-financial institutions such as insurance companies. Dr. Musa Dukuly, the CBL’s Deputy Governor for Economic Policy, said the increased penetration risks of more than US$100 million, will aim to mitigate the financial “crisis or crash” of a country with deposits of L$135 billion (equivalent to about US$800 million), as well as of a country with a GDP of about US$3.2 billion.

The CBL executive made the definitive but spurring remarks on Monday at the EJS Inter-Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, during the formal opening of the West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA) in Monrovia, which brought together about 140 delegates from five anglophone countries including, Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia  Sierra Leone and host Liberia. The 2022 WAICA Education Conference took place from November 27-29.

Dukuly said “the economy is expanding; from US$1.4 billion or US$1.5 billion to US$3.2 billion. This is a manifestation that we need a sector to accommodate the risks in order to mitigate any financial crisis or instability. The economy is carrying more risks. We need institutions to mitigate the risks.”

The Deputy Governor meanwhile congratulates the Liberian insurance industry for being the “safety net” in terms of insurance, and for showing signs of growth and development, but wants them to strive more to address the financial risks of the country.

He, therefore, encouraged Liberians and residents to insure their lives and properties.  During his opening statement, the President of the Liberia Insurance Association (LIA), Saye D. Gbalazeh, said they (insurance companies) recognize the urgent need to make the regulatory environment within which the insurance industry operates independently operative and separate from the Central Bank of Liberia, whose original mandate is to regulate banking activities.  

“We need to expedite efforts toward regulatory reforms,” Gbalazeh said. “Moreover, we need an independent commission to regulate activities in the sector to enable it to attain its fullest potential and contribute meaningfully to national development.”

Also, Gbalazeh stated that hosting this year’s WAICA Annual Educational Conference is important for Liberia. He said the Annual Educational Conference allows governments and industry players to interact and find areas where consensus can be reached in advancing much-needed reforms and this edition of the educational conference is being held at a time when the global economy faces new challenges posed by the Russian–Ukraine War, rising inflation, and other domestic issues.

He also said various authoritative scholars will provide their professional perspectives on the sub-topics to be discussed. 

“It is a time for lessons and knowledge-sharing, during which emerging trends in the insurance industry are assessed, and the sector’s significance to the growth, development, and advancement of our various economies are reinforced,” he said.

“Despite these global and local challenges, a low penetration rate below 1%, the insurance industry in Liberia continues to make strides and contribute significantly to national and economic development through employment, facilitation of international trade through imports and exports, public policy, risk management, and investment stimulation through premiums deposits in banks.”

On behalf of the insurance companies, he said the premiums generated in 2021 and 2022 in Liberia were over US$75 million.

“Out of this amount, the industry remitted to government revenue 2% in advance tax, 15% in withholding tax on exportable premiums, and 25% in corporate tax on gross profits.  The industry’s contribution to employment is reflected in the Quarterly Employment Statistics that the Ministry of Labor generates.  The sector employs over 400 permanent Liberian workers and offers scholarships for technical capacity building.”

Meanwhile, the President and Secretary  General of WAICA, George Y. Mensah and William B. Coker (respectively) provided the historicity, challenges, and prospects. The opening program was climaxed with Goodwill messages from Everett J. Clarke, UNDP former Assistant Resident Representative for Operations; GIZ Country  Manager, Christian Widmann for Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone and a Goodwill message from  Ghana's Ambassador to Liberia, Kwabena Okubi  Appiah.