Fueling the expansion of engineering insurance in Africa

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Mirabilis is ready and equipped to respond to the insurance needs of Africa’s construction and engineering sector.

Innumerable reports inform us that two-thirds of Africa’s cities are yet to be built; that some US$100-billion of private and public funds are to be invested in new African city projects; and that rising urban growth rates translate into the need for homes for an additional 950-million people by 2050.

Also forthcoming is public infrastructure development that supports inter-continental trade and facilitates improvements to socio-economic conditions.

This bodes well for the construction and engineering industry, particularly in South Africa, which is one of the sectors hardest hit by the country’s economic decline and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the years the sector has also faced toughening market conditions and declining political and investment sentiment; and natural disasters that impact heavily on projects because of the unpredictability of, for example, weather and ground conditions.

The vulnerability of a project is, therefore, crucially dependent on how, and the depth to which, risks are insured. This responsibility falls to construction and engineering insurance underwriters, who not only need to be skilled in the underwriting of complicated insurance solutions but also have expertise in aspects of process, mechanical, electrical, building, civil, and structural engineering projects.

This is one of the reasons why Mirabilis, Santam’s construction and engineering underwriting business (which has a vast footprint spanning Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, and the Indian sub-continent) demands the adoption of professional global best practice standards.

Risks in this sector are difficult to quantify because construction and engineering insurance is highly specialised. No two risks are the same and similarly no two underwriters will underwrite in the same manner. But what is assured at Mirabilis, is that a minimum standard is applied. This is vital because there is pressure on an insurance broker to produce a policy timeously, sometimes within hours of the awarding of a project, and which must meet the contractual requirements of the project.

To underwrite complex risks involves the collection of vast amounts of information: including a proposal form, detailed scope of the project, summary of the Bill of Quantities, details of ground conditions, site drawings, and engineering method statements. Further considerations are the unique aspects of the project, which is when Mirabilis underwriters engage their industry skillsets, knowledge, and experience to ensure that additional information is sourced.

This information takes cognisance of the insured’s requirements, from whom full disclosure is required. If such disclosure is not provided at underwriting stage, it could lead to disputes at claim stage.

This is also not a simple under-writing effort. Construction and engineering processes are ever-changing, meaning that there is always new knowledge to be acquired, which is why Mirabilis regularly trains its underwriters and exposes them to new advances and challenges faced by contractors.

As such, Mirabilis has, in the past 15 years of its existence, built a network of localised and international credible affiliations, including Santam’s extensive network of partnerships such as Sanlam Pan Africa and Saham Finances, and has aligned with New Reinsurance Company Limited (NewRe), a Zurich-based reinsurer that has authorised Mirabilis to act as an agent to underwrite and accept, on NewRe’s paper, engineering classes of reinsurance business.

Mirabilis is optimistic for the near future for at least three reasons: the number of requests for quotations is increasing; the SA government intends to award R791-billion to infrastructure projects; and the private sector is stimulating new development. In readiness, Mirabilis has introduced an online quoting platform in SA to provide insurance brokers, at their convenience, with real-time underwriting feedback, quotations, and policy documents, and cater for the smaller Contractors’ All Risks insurance policies.

Caring for brokers is integral to Mirabilis’ success over the years. We have walked a long path with our brokers, helping and supporting them to grow. We keep them visible at all times, such as currently in the wake of the pandemic, where we are engaging them on a one-to-one basis.

Never before have the insurance needs of the African construction and engineering sector required more care, and our brokers can take comfort in knowing that Mirabilis is a brand that can be depended on with confidence.

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