Africa’s insurance giant appoints Zimbabwean as Group MD

Mr Mutsunge Lawrence Nazare

AFRICAN reinsurance giant, Continental Reinsurance Plc, headquartered at Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, recently announced the appointment of Mr Mutsunge Lawrence Nazare, a Zimbabwean, as its group managing director, effective April 1 2021. Mr Nazare takes over from Dr Femi Oyetunji who retires on March 31, 2021.

The chairman of Continental Reinsurance Board of Directors, Chief Ajibola Ogunshola, announced Mr Nazare’s appointment on March 3, following approval of the appointment by Nigeria’s National Insurance Commission (NAICOM).

Mr Nazare, a seasoned pan African insurer, has been on Continental Reinsurance executive leadership as group executive director/chief operating officer for over 10 years. With more than three decades in the industry, he brings a deep understanding and experience in the reinsurance business in Africa and across the globe.

In a recent virtual conversation with Allen Choruma (AM), Mr Nazare (MLN), shares his personal experiences at Continental Reinsurance and gives an overview of the African insurance landscape and challenges that lie ahead.

AM: Congratulations, you are about to take over the reins of Continental Reinsurance at a very critical time, what are the challenges that lie ahead?

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MLN: The greatest challenge is to maintain and improve upon the legacy of growth and success built by my predecessors. The African Insurance industry faces a myriad of challenges the most perennial being the low uptake of insurance by the vast majority of our people who need it the most and our failure as a continent to translate economic growth into commensurate growth in insurance premiums.
Low market growth has resulted in fratricidal price competition that threatens all players in the sector.

AM: How best do you describe your past 10 years at Continental Re?

MLN: It has been an incredible ride and an amazingly edifying experience! From the initial anxiety of adapting professionally, and as a family, to the bustling environment of Lagos, witnessing Africa’s palpable economic revolution, in real-time in my endless travels across the continent, being part of the corporate transformation at Continental Re; the trailblazing expansion drive we undertook, the triumphs, disappointments and many unpleasant surprises that are part of our business. It has all been hectic, but fun.

AM: What is the impact of Continental Re on the African insurance market and where is it headed?

MLN: We are a bold and adventurous brand. We believe in pushing boundaries and we have a permanent commitment to this continent and its insurance sector. We are pan-African not only in geographic presence but from the philosophical standpoint that our growth story as a continent must be written by great African enterprises. We have demonstrated this by making key investments in all regions across Africa, building great teams and working collaboratively with our clients to develop insurance markets. We will continue to reinforce that standpoint and work assiduously towards building a substantial and impactful entity.

AM: What is the current environment across the markets you operate in Africa?

MLN: Making an explicit generalisation about Africa or its condition would be grand folly! We are the world’s largest and most diverse continent and we would be hard-pressed for time and space for me to do justice to this question. However, most African countries continue to make significant progress across all spheres of human development. The environment in our markets in political, economic, social circumstances, regulatory frameworks, corporate governance, and technological advancement is vastly different from what it was 10 years ago. We have made significant headway as a continent.

AM: What should Africa do to mitigate the effects of Covid-19?

MLN: I am not an epidemiologist! However, I am sure that measures that have been implemented elsewhere, of tight lockdowns, are not appropriate for this continent. We just have too many fragile economies, friable corporates, and vulnerable citizens in the informal sector. The impact of any wholesale economic disruption will have disproportionate consequences for livelihoods and potentially, lives. And, we lack the social safety nets that advanced economies have. Ultimately, like what we have seen for Ebola, we must pray for the successful roll-out of a vaccination programme.

AM: What is your message to players in the insurance industry across Africa?

MLN: Let’s roll-up our sleeves and get on with the hard work. There is so much to do that demands purposeful strategies to grow the cake rather than focus on price, ‘zero-sum’ competitive activities that harm all players in the sector. Opportunities abound, and we will all be winners if we collaborate to craft solutions that tap into Africa’s huge uninsured market.

AM: Are you optimistic about Africa’s growth going forward?

MLN: Absolutely. Developments in the last few years, including how we have fared as a continent through the on-going Covid-19 challenges, suggest that our acknowledged resilience and grit as a continent, have positioned us on the cusp of greatness.

Mr Nazare’s brief CV
Over 30 years’ experience in the insurance industry
Started career with Zimbabwe Reinsurance Corporation in 1990
Managing Director for Intermarket Reinsurance 1999 – 2010
Briefly left Intermarket from 2002 – 2003, to be Managing Director of Tri Star Insurance
Re-joined Intermarket as Managing Director in 2003
Appointed Continental Reinsurance Group Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer on 1 April, 2010.
Chairperson-Organisation of Eastern and Southern African Insurers (2012-2015)
Board Member-East and Southern African Insurers (2002-2018)
Chairman-Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (2005-2008)
Chairman-Zimbabwe Association of Reinsurance Offices (2001-2004)