CEO Reflection: 2 Year Anniversary


By Mikir Shah, CEO at Africa Specialty Risks

It has been two years since Africa Specialty Risks first began writing business out of London. At the time, the world was still gripped by Covid-19 and the founding team were all trying to get the business off the ground from our homes.

Despite the challenges, we have come a long way since our early days. Last year alone, our team was in Africa for more than 250 days, connecting with brokers, insurers, reinsurers, businesses, investors and regulators. At ASR, we believe that having an intimate knowledge of the risk environment, the projects, and the people involved is essential to effectively write risks in the geographies where we underwrite.

Our team has grown significantly, and we now have 74 employees, working out of London, Mauritius, Bermuda, Kenya and France. We have participated in risk mitigation of approximately $11.4 billion of investments into 47 African countries across nine lines of business, and expanded our underwriting coverage into the Middle East

Mauritius has been a key focus for ASR. Establishing an office here was central to our business plan and our mission to write business in Africa. Since the office opened in 2021, it has continuously grown and we now have 24 employees, and which is ever expanding. What has been most pleasing to watch is how closely the whole team works together, whether based in Mauritius or London, we are a cohesive team enabling us to make great strides and achieve remarkable outcomes.

Knowledge sharing is at the heart of what we do, and is a key component between our teams in Mauritius and London. We promote a culture of two-way information exchange, and it was excellent to see our underwriting divisions actively sharing their insights with local brokers and insurance professionals during their market visits, including Mauritius, which have been instrumental in strengthening our relationships and driving our success.

We see Mauritius as a vital hub for insurance and reinsurance across Africa, and we are proud to be playing our part in developing insurance capabilities on the island, and more widely across the continent. As of November 2022, the Mauritius International Financial Centre celebrated its 30th anniversary. We take pride in the contributions we have made to the reinsurance industry and the overall financial services ecosystem, as Mauritius continues to honour this significant milestone.

This speaks to our fundamental mission, to increase (re)insurance penetration throughout emerging markets and facilitate investments and business activities, accordingly.

We continue to believe in these markets and its potential, and we are making giant strides towards fulfilling our goals. The deepening of our relationships and active local presence resulted in landmark partnerships agreements, including with the African Reinsurance Corporation and Société Centrale de Réassurance, boosting much needed underwriting capacity across Africa and the Middle East, and increasing the access to specialty risk mitigation covers to a wider pool of corporates and investors. Most recently, we have been approved as a coverholder at Lloyd’s, the world’s leading specialist insurance and reinsurance market, which authorises us to work with Lloyd’s syndicates and have access to new pools of capacity, leveraging the Lloyd’s brand and licences to bring capacity to Africa.

In this pursuit, we are developing innovative insurance products, which have been designed specifically with the African insurance market in mind. This year, we launched the inaugural Mozambique Cyclone Parametric Reinsurance Program, which will provide USD 35 million of cover against the destructive effects of cyclones, in conjunction with The Mozambique National Institute of Disaster Management, the World Bank and PULA.

We are grateful to our esteemed capital partner, Helios Investment Partners, who have been supportive since the inception of our business. Their guidance and feedback has been invaluable, and we deeply appreciate their continued partnership. We also want to thank our capacity providers, (re)insurance partners, brokers and businesses who we have partnered with, worked with, and met in the past two years. You have all been instrumental in helping us make the business what it is today.

At ASR, we are always striving to achieve new heights and exceed our own expectations. This year, we anticipate writing between USD 150Mn to USD 200Mn gross written premium, which is a testament to the team’s unwavering commitment and diligence. We are proud to have been awarded a Silver Sustainability Rating by EcoVadis this year, following our previous bronze award. ESG is fundamental to ASR’s business, and we are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. With confidence in our ability to continue growing and achieving even greater success, we look forward to what the future holds.

We are continuing to look at opportunities to launch new business lines and offerings to the insurance market, and are looking at obtaining a rating for our Mauritius based reinsurer. Additionally, ASR was one of the first insurers to report its financials under IFRS17 which provides a more informed and comparable economic view of ASR’s technical provisions and stability.

But now is a brief moment for us all to look back on what we have achieved, and be proud of where we have come from, before we embark again on the next phase of this exciting journey we are all on.