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2019 Women to Watch EMEA: Abiba Zakariah

Abiba Zakariah

Abiba Zakariah
Group chief operating officer
WAICA Reinsurance Corp. PLC
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Age: 51

Abiba Zakariah has helped the insurance and reinsurance industry make strides in West Africa, but her next project aims to transform the continent’s insurance market.

As group chief operating officer of WAICA Reinsurance Corp. PLC in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a reinsurance pool for African insurers, she’s part of a management team tasked with growing the company, which has about $60 million in premium income, into one of Africa’s largest reinsurers.

“We want to change how people think about insurance and put insurance in a positive light,” Ms. Zakariah said.

In Africa, many efforts on insurance market development focus on microinsurance, which is low-premium and low-limit coverage bought by individuals.

“You can’t do microinsurance without technology. So we have to know what we can do with technology and what we can do better with technology,” she said.

Like many insurance executives, Ms. Zakariah’s journey to her current job, which she started earlier this year, began outside the industry.

Born and raised in Ghana, her first job after studying marketing at university was in the marketing department of a local trading company. From there, she moved to the marketing department of a state-owned insurer and then to Ghana Reinsurance Co. Ltd., where she moved through various positions over 14 years, rising to managing director in 2016.

During her time at Ghana Re, she helped change the mindset of the market on issues such as bringing transparency to the reinsurance rating process, which previously was opaque for reinsurance buyers.

“Treaty rating was no longer a puzzle and it was something that the market bought into,” she said.

The change gave cedents information that they could use to change the performance of their portfolios, Ms. Zakariah said.

She broadened her insurance education during her time at Ghana Re by obtaining U.K. professional qualifications, and she obtained a doctorate in management through online studies with a Swiss business school.

In addition to her day job, she also promotes the advancement of women in the African insurance market and chaired the committee that established the Chartered Insurance Ladies Association of Ghana.

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