Jihan Abass is the founder of and CEO of Lami, an insurtech firm in Kenya that is dedicated to improving insurance penetration in Africa. Before venturing into digital insurance, Jihan was working as a sugar trader in the City of London.
During a holiday in her native country, she had an encounter with a waitress who did not have insurance. This led her to investigate the insurance penetration in Africa and she discovered that it was as low as 3%.
The shocking insurance penetration on the continent led her in search of a solution. Her first step was to quit her lucrative job and move back to Kenya. She was also inspired by her commitment to protecting people and their livelihoods.
“For us, the main problem we wanted to solve was that 97% of Africans don’t buy insurance. We were trying to understand the methodology behind that, especially in Kenya where there are over 50 insurance companies but the penetration level is 2.4%,” she told TechCrunch.
“The driving force for us was making insurance widely available. We felt that building the technological infrastructure to facilitate the distribution of insurance was the best way to increase the penetration level in Africa.”
In 2016, she founded Kenya’s first digital-only car insurance platform, Griffin, which allows users to buy insurance in a matter of minutes, and Lami, the technology platform used to build the Griffin app.
Lami links insurance companies with brokers/providers, allowing them to craft policies and process claims on an as-needed basis, according to Catalyst Fund. The platform also allows current insurance companies to digitize their existing offerings.
Lami has also provided a platform to others to develop their own digital insurance companies. Jihan sees her role as not only providing insurance cover to Kenyans and Africans at large but also “democratizing access to insurance by creating the infrastructure to facilitate others to be able to create and distribute products.”
Some of Lami’s customers include Stanbic Bank and HR platforms like WorkPay. Through the firm’s API, users can get a quote for motor, medical, or other tailored insurance products.
In May this year, Lami secured $1.8 million in seed funding to scale the API insurance platform in Africa.
The round was led by Accion Venture Lab, a seed-stage investment firm that supports financial services targeted at underserved markets. Other VCs that participated include AAIC, Consonance, P1 Ventures, Acuity Ventures, The Continent Venture Partners, and Future Africa, according to Tech Crunch.
Since launching Lami and Griffin, Jihan has sold more than 5,000 insurance. However, the road has not always been smooth sailing for the tech entrepreneur. One of her major challenges is getting more customers on board.
It has also been challenging for her because she is young, Black and a woman disrupting the insurance space in Kenya that is dominated by men, including foreigners.
“In the beginning, people thought what I was trying to do was kind of crazy. They thought the problem was too big to solve,” she told City Alumni Network.