For low-income populations in Africa, insurance is a distant concept. They believe insurance is only for those that have more money and more assets to protect. That’s in part because the benefit seems too long-term.
The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a non-profit organization housed within the World Bank, took on the challenge of educating rural Africans about insurance.
In 2013, MicroEnsure, a leader in the provision of insurance for the mass market in Africa, and Airtel, a leading global telecom firm, formed a partnership to deliver insurance to 17 countries in Africa over the next three years. CGAP, along with MicroEnsure, tasked Continuum with finding a way to deliver relevant insurance products to low-income Africans via mobile phone.
We quickly realized we had to figure out a way for insurance to fit into and support people’s lives as they exist today, rather than ask people to change their lives or the way they behave to include insurance.
Research & Insights
People had inconsistent incomes, and in turn paid for and consumed things in small amounts. We tested a few different payment models for insurance offerings and found that people preferred daily payment methods that they could control, such as text-based payment.
The Good Life
People aspired to reach “the good life”—to make enough money to cover their basic needs, owning a home and perhaps a car. But financial constraints and setbacks, ranging from paying school fees to the death of a loved one, made achieving “the good life” difficult.
Education Is Currency
People wanted to protect education the most, and yet, it was also the first thing to be sacrificed during tough times. As a result, we saw that people were hungry for advice and information. There was a great desire to learn and share that knowledge with friends and family.
While people were living day-to-day, they still made time for small pleasures. Playing games on their phones, watching TV or listening to the radio, talking with friends, and sharing stories and information were important parts of daily life.
The solution was a series of insurance-related storylines that could be purchased daily, in small increments, and would be delivered via text message.
Customers would receive the first excerpt of a story, and, in the style of Choose Your Own Adventure-type narratives, make a decision about its trajectory. Each time the user interacted with the story, sending a text message, he or she would be charged a small fee.
In the end, one story’s worth of texts could equal a week’s worth of insurance but the payment would be in smaller increments and dictated by the schedule of the customer.
Preliminary results have been positive. In the first public testing phase, 78 people in Kenya spent an average of 10-15 minutes reading through a story and 70% reported the experience to be interesting. The majority of subjects stated they would tell their friends about insurance. Using these initial results, the team moved into another stage of refinement, and is optimistic to see further improvement in engagement and understanding.
Design guidelines and a criteria scorecard helped MicroEnsure adapt their current products to reflect more closely to people’s needs. These tangible tools help spread the human-centered design approach throughout the company and provided a common understanding of the client’s perspective to all employees.
“I think what we’ve done [with this project] will be the future of our business, if not our industry. By helping us understand risk from the client’s perspective, we’ve identified new products and revenue streams that are unimaginable to most of the companies in our industry today,” says Peter Gross, Regional Director, MicroEnsure Africa.