Westgate exposed importance of insurance cover

September 18, 2014
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Nakumatt did not recover “even a single merchandise” after a fire erupted during the incident/FILE
Nakumatt did not recover “even a single merchandise” after a fire erupted during the incident/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 19- The primary reason of buying any insurance cover is to transfer risk in case of an unfortunate incident. As a businessman, Nakumatt Managing Director Atul Shah agrees to this very well. However, there is no single insurance cover that would bring back life, he says.

Shah is referring the latter to the at least 68 people who died on September 21, 2013 during Westgate Mall terror attack in Nairobi where he lost a brother in-law and three members of staff.

“Everybody who lost their life there was connected to us in one way or another. Either they were shoppers or people who knew us very well. One of the three colleagues we lost was a supervisor who was conversant with many shoppers. We really miss them,” Shah says during an interview with Capital FM Business.

On the fateful day, Shah was in his office when he received a call that there was an attack at the prestigious Mall.

Initially he thought it was a robbery incident that would have been dealt with by the security forces and be over in a short while. However, these were not just thugs but terrorists, whose mission was not only to destroy property worth millions of shillings, but kill as many innocent people as possible.

“It took me about an hour and a half to be on the ground. But unfortunately, we were not allowed to go near the building and it was not even safe to be near the building. And in the first two hours I learnt that many people had been shot dead and others injured. I had never dreamt of a terror attack happening,” Shah recalls.

Being at the heart of the mall, Nakumatt did not recover “even a single merchandise” after a fire erupted during the incident.

However Nakumatt was lucky to have received over Sh 1billion compensation by Mayfair Insurance Company.

“In terms of compensation, we were covered for almost 60 percent of the loss that we had gone through. The biggest loss of course is that we lost a branch. I mean a flagship branch. Besides that we lost colleagues and many people’s lives. In terms of loss of business; for as long as it stays closed, its all loses,” Shah laments.

Unlike Nakumatt, many businesses did not have any terrorism insurance cover and have counted loses to date. Kenya is estimated to have lost Sh10 billion in the Westgate attack out of which Sh4 billion was related to businesses hosted in the mall.

The Association of Kenya Insurers CEO Tom Gichuhi says the challenge is that most Kenyans take specific covers when they speculate risks ahead, something he says leads to many victims going uncompensated after the incident.

“The moment terrorism is contained, the uptake comes down like we can see now compared to say October last year. It’s just like the way the demand for political cover went up after 2007 but later dropped. Then as we approached 2013 it also went up due to fear of what happened in 2007,”Gichuhi says.

His emphasis is on taking insurance covers that would provide protection even when there is less expectation of unfortunate happenings.

“The example I would give is; why would you take an insurance cover for a house? How many times do you see houses burning? Very few times. The whole purpose of taking an insurance cover is not because you are going to have a claim tomorrow. You are taking a cover in the event you are going to have fire,” Gichuhi advices.

But according to Shah, this may not be the complete solution for businesses and even individuals.

“You know, terrorism cover is not a cheap affair but expensive one. It is something most common people cannot afford. I know it is important to protect ourselves, but why come a time where we have to protect ourselves over everything? In any case, an insurance cover doesn’t guarantee that you will get paid,” Shah says urging the government to put more effort in securing Kenyans.

Despite all, Nakumatt plans to still re-open at the same mall which is under renovation. This time, “with a big bang.’”

“We have faced several incidences as Nakumatt, but nothing will put us down. We keep moving because life has to move on.”

All the 250 employees who worked at Nakumatt Westgate Mall were reabsorbed in other branches.

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