The history of insurance in Nigeria cannot be complete without the mention of African Alliance, the country’s foremost life insurer which berthed in Africa’s most populous nation some 60 years ago.
Incorporated on the 6th of May, 1960, the company was founded by the inimitable duo, S.L. Edu and Talabi Braithwaite, widely regarded as the first Chartered Insurance practitioner in this clime. M.E.R Okorodudu provided legal support while the global reinsurer, Munich Re, provided not just technical support but also co-owned the business. Their vision was simple: to be the most preferred life insurance company of choice. To achieve these, the company set out to make the customers the primary focus, and create a lasting legacy for themselves in the life of every Nigerian.
In building a lasting legacy and achieve the vision of a company, it is important that the internal stakeholders have a sense of ownership and belonging. This much has been the driving force behind African Alliance’s staying power: the family bond. Members of Staff see themselves not as colleagues but as members of one big family. Little wonder the company boasts perhaps the highest number of long service personnel anywhere around. And it starts with the leadership, one ingrained with the culture and vision and is able to pass it on. The current crop of leaders mostly began their careers in the company and grew through the ranks. From the beginning till date, African Alliance has enjoyed homegrown inspirational leadership that works.
Ope Oredugba, a former managing director, worked forty years at African Alliance and retired as the managing director. “I was recruited by the first CEO, Talabi Braithwaite, who handed me to the best hands within the business who never gave up on me despite my tendency to be rascally,” he said.
Funmi Omo, MD, started her career at African Alliance in 1990, thirty years on, she leads a crop of professionals devoted to the company. “When I joined African Alliance, I was a young passionate employee, and like many young people the concept of being a CEO of such a large company was far into the future…Today, I have seen our company rise and rise. I have witnessed transformations beyond my imagination. I have seen our people develop and become a family,”she said in a recent interview.
Building a lasting legacy means having a string of innovations under your belt. African Alliance is notably famous among others for being the life insurance company to introduce Takaful in Nigeria. This feat was achieved under the leadership of the then CEO, Ope Oredugba in 2002, who had, in the wake of the introduction of the Sharia law in parts of the north, felt there was a niche in that line of insurance that could appeal to the region. Takaful also known as ethical insurance is based on the principles of mutual co-operation, solidarity, common interest, shared responsibility, joint indemnity and brotherhood against unpredicted risk or catastrophes, in which the participants involved, are expected to contribute genuinely. The innovation of Takaful in Nigeria enabled ethically minded Nigerians to participate in insurance and get life covers for themselves and their families without any worry of their principles being compromised. The impact of Takaful in Nigeria was so great that less than six months into the formal launching of Takaful, an Islamic compliant insurance scheme, African Alliance was being inundated with request from within and outside the African continent by those seeking the benefit from the products. It gets interesting. Today, Takaful has grown into one of the most viable business lines in the company so much that it has easily warmed its way into the hearts of non-muslims alike.
In building a lasting legacy, African Alliance Insurance has ensured that they have been woven into the fabrics of Nigeria’s history. This created love for the African Alliance brand in the east and till date, the east, especially Onitsha, is one of the company’s most lucrative locations in terms of premium income earned. This singular act demonstrates integrity, one of the core values the company upholds. This has been further demonstrated again and again in the historyof claims settlement. In 2019 alone, the company paid over N9 billion in claims settlement.
Where there is history to be made and national interest to be protected, there you will find African Alliance. When covid-19 broke, the company dug deep and started its charity from home, supporting a food outreach for residents of Ikoyi-Obalende LCDA, its immediate community. African Alliance also made financial contributions to the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) Covid-19 support fund.The NIA Covid-19 support fund was an initiative of the Nigerian Insurers Association aimed at mitigating the further spread of the virus in Nigeria. The funds raised were used in acquiring and distributing protective gears to the public as well as to the healthcare workers fighting against the Covid-19.The funds were also used to provide N1million free life insurance cover to healthcare professionals taking care of infected citizens.
Consistent and significant growth is essential in building a lasting legacy, for the past 60 years, African Alliance insurance has steadily grown from being a life insurance company among many, to being among the top five life insurance companies in the country. From humble beginnings at 112 Broad Street, Marina, African Alliance has expanded its operations to 18 branches nationwide and has a regional subsidiary, Ghana Life based in Accra. The company’s customer base has also grown with overfifty thousand (50,000) policyholders in its books. After 60 years of such a thriving legacy, the most natural question is what next? According to the company’s executive director, Finance, Olabisi Adekola, African Alliance has no plans of slowing down: “…we give gratitude to our shareholders and our staff who are the reason we have grown into such a strong organisation. At African Alliance we are a family, and as families do, we are planning for an even greater future where we can give so much more value to our stakeholders.”