By Binay Dash, CEO, Visista Insurance Brokers 23 August,2021.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, with suddenness, that seems to have caught the world off guard. India lost what they had built over the last two decades and perhaps, allowed other neighboring nations to fill the space. India could have persuaded the United States to not withdraw and simultaneously build a coalition of willing nations to stop this impasse.
Our relation with Afghanistan dates back to folk tales of “Kabuliwallah”. My childhood was filled with fond stories of “Kabulichacha”. India had assisted in their business and built their national projects and infrastructures – roads, bridges, dams, building, transmission & distribution lines, power plants. These were for their economic prosperity, reconstruction, and for the people of Afghanistan. India has done a lot for the development and welfare of the people of Afghanistan. So, India has no reason to be defensive. The Taliban knows what we have done and from all accounts appreciates it. It also knows that India can do more and help & guide them in developing their nation.
The historical perspective for the insurance industry in Afghanistan
There are currently four large insurance companies operating in Afghanistan –
- State-Owned Afghan National Insurance Company (ANIC) – ANIC has been operating in the market for over 40 years and has products mostly in personal lines.
- Insurance Corporation of Afghanistan (ICA) – ICA was the first private insurance company to establish commercial insurance in Afghanistan in 2007. They handle the larger commercial enterprises, construction companies, public sector companies, and the like.
- Afghan Global Insurance (AGI) – AGI was established in 2010 and is mainly involved in Indian business as its shareholders are Afghan/Indian. The company does business with the smaller companies in the market and writes all classes of business.
- Sky International is relatively new in the market. It has also fronted a few risks on behalf of non-admitted carriers.
The insurance industry in Afghanistan, though small in size, has been growing with opportunities resulting from the government’s push for infrastructure development.
The other pointers in the insurance industry in Afghanistan
- Currently, all classes of businesses are insured in Afghanistan, with the exception of financial lines, i. e. financial liabilities, surety, and performance bonds, due to lack of credible financial data, in terms of internationally audited accounts.
- Most of the business-insuring companies, whether local or international, are reinsured.
- There have been attacks everywhere, simply endorse the fact that the problems of terrorism and insurgency are worldwide and not just confined to a single country. However, it has not dampened the business environment with commercial activities on the increase.
- Afghanistan is susceptible to earthquakes, the last big earthquake to affect Kabul was in 1911. To offset, the building and construction standards in Afghanistan have improved immensely over the past few years. Many new buildings are constructed to withstand earthquakes and the quality of these new buildings is similar to anywhere in the developed countries.
- There is huge potential for the Afghanistan insurance industry and it is proving highly attractive to a variety of reinsurers. The support of the international community is pivotal for Afghanistan’s insurance industry to thrive and succeed.
The insurance companies in Afghanistan, are increasing their underwriting capabilities, with larger appetite and bigger retention, etc. that are duly supported by GIC Re & Indian insurance companies. They are assisting them to develop a strong local insurance market. They support in movement of goods, project works, liabilities towards workmen, liabilities to supervisors, and more importantly for terrorism and political risks.
In this intervening period, the project works and other assets in Afghanistan would be put to unexpected damages and financial losses. The Indian contractors may be facing severe disadvantages. Have the Indian contractors been provided with sovereign guarantees to the project works?
The threats are looming large on Afghanistan and its people. We hope that the Taliban will bring cheers and good news to all. History is replete with examples of revolutionaries turning into responsible rulers under the burden of office. We hope that the Taliban will not disappoint and will rule with responsibility.
The post-takeover statements from the Taliban have been reassuring. Being in contact with the Taliban, India should talk with confidence and assure them support and national building that can be done for the new regime. Pakistan, China, and Russia have welcomed the change and are preparing to recognize the new regime, India should not leave the field open for Pakistan and China. India is very popular with the people of Afghanistan. These assets and goodwill should be fully utilized.
The insurance industry is at the forefront to assist other industries, businesses, trade & people to mitigate their financial hardship to a large extent.