Prudential plc has picked Kenya as its African headquarters, a few months after becoming the first firm to subscribe to the Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC).
Apart from Kenya, the firm has operations in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Nigeria with all these offices directly reporting to London.
The new continental hub will oversee operations in four regions covering eight countries that serve at least 1.7 million customers.
The UK’s oldest insurer which commenced operations in 1848 was among two companies that applied to become anchor clients of NIFC. President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the financial hub in July while on a tour of the UK.
The City UK, riding upon the partnership between the UK and Kenya signed last year, submitted Prudential’s application alongside a memorandum of understanding.
Speaking at the launch yesterday in Nairobi, National Treasury permanent secretary Julius Muia asked other foreign investors to take advantage of the country’s promising financial hub to grow portfolios and give value to their customers.
“Kenya’s expansive tech innovations, skilled labour, high internet penetration and diversified economy presents numerous opportunities for investors. Incentives that will come with NIFC are icing on the cake,’’ Muia said.
NIFC chief executive Oscar Njuguna said that the regulations to govern Africa’s new financial centre will be ready in the coming weeks.
Prudential is setting its African base in Kenya seven years after its return. It had exited the continental market in the 1990s before returning to Ghana in 2013.
Prudential’s regional CEO of Insurance Growth Markets Wilf Blackburn said the Nairobi office underscores the company’s deep commitment to Africa.
“Our purpose is to help people get the most out of life. In line with this, we want to make healthcare and financial security more accessible and affordable to the people of Africa,’’ Blackburn said.
Speaking exclusively to the Star, Prudential Africa chief operating officer Nick Holder said the firm is counting on Nairobi’s strategic position to expand its network to 20 more countries in the continent in the next year.
He said the insurer sees the demand for insurance growing across Africa where the population is expected to double to 2 billion by 2050.
“There is a huge unexploited market here. Today, Africa has an insurance penetration rate of 2.7 per cent and its out-of-pocket spend on health is almost double that of Asia at $6 billion,’’ Holder said.
He added that they have several products in the pipeline targeting the informal sector and small businesses, a move aimed at increasing uptake in countries like Kenya, which has low insurance penetration of below 2.4 per cent.