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Insurers urged to up their standards

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 5- Insurance companies have been urged to benchmark their operations to the best international standards and practises to improve efficiency and access to insurance services in the country.

Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said on Wednesday that it is only by addressing their institutional challenges that the industry can increase the penetration levels of insurance coverage among Kenyans.

“The industry needs to implement concrete strategies aimed at increasing efficiency, stability and access to insurance services,” he said, adding that this was the only way to position Kenya as a financial hub in the region, offering first class insurance and re-insurance services.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Financial Secretary Mutua Kilaka, Mr Kenyatta assured the players that the government had put in place measures to monitor and minimise the effects of the ongoing credit crunch on the financial sector.

Statistics show that the firms had invested approximately Sh30 billion as at December 31, 2008 in quoted and un-quoted shares, whose values have been eroded by the continuing decline in share prices at the stock market.

“There are appropriate measures to enhance regulatory capacity of the (financial) sector regulators in addressing emerging structural and institutional constraints,” he stressed.

He spoke during the launch of the Insurance Regulatory Authority’s (IRA) strategic plan and delivery service charter, which outlines its strategies to grow the industry.

IRA Chairman Steven Mainda said the two documents spell out how the Authority plans to enhance the regulatory and supervisory framework to safeguard investors’ funds, increase penetration levels particularly of life products, and create awareness about insurance matters.

“Every effort will be made to address the various challenges as we seek to build and grow the industry together with all stakeholders. The service charter is our commitment to excellence in service delivery,” Mr Mainda pledged.

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He said the Authority would soon launch a consumer education campaign to enlighten the public on the importance of insurance and try to change the perception of the industry.

The chairman challenged the firms to come up with affordable and innovative products that appeal to the masses.

“While we acknowledge that the efforts by the players to launch several products in the last few years, the public is still underserved and there is still room for innovations,” Mr Mainda stressed.

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