Over 700 participants from Nigeria and 54 other countries within and outside Africa, are already seated at the Sheraton Hotels, Gambia for the commencement of the 37th African Insurance Organisation (AIO) conference and general assembly.
The AIO conference which The Gambia expended over 10 million Dalasi, approximately $400,000 and still counting, to ensure that participants are comfortable, is being declared open by the Vice-President of Gambia, Mrs. Isatou Njie-Saidy.
The Gambian VP recalls thatÂ â€œthe global economic crisis which started as a financial crisis in rich countries is now transforming into a full scale global economic crisis hitting developing countries hard, worsening the economic situation of most African countries and thwarting efforts to mitigate the magnitude of poverty.â€
According to her, â€œthe 1994 ICPD programme of Action did not only call on countries to mainstream gender issues into national priorities and increase awareness on gender but it also advocated that governments should ensure universal access to reproductive health by 2015.â€
More so, Insurance operators at the conference have gagged themselves ready to brainstorm immediately after the opening ceremony on the way forward regarding the global financial crisis and its after-effectsâ€. Some dignitaries and government institutions from around the continent are also in attendance, including insurance regulators, Commissioners for Insurance and trade bodies and Nigeriaâ€™s Insurance Commissioner, Mr Fola Daniel is not left out.
Africa has seen dramatic shifts over the past few years though the continent has always survived active change and turmoil hence the next four days will have participants at the conference tell their stories and strategies for surviving the global financial meltdown which threatened and in some cases, shook the pillars of the financial market around the globe.
Nonetheless, Africa is battling with multitude of problems as a result of the global financial crisis created by rich countries in the North.
Despite very real challenges posed by the economic meltdown, Prince Mike Ikupolati, Director-General of the West African Insurance Institute (WAII) sees signs of hope even in the insurance industry in Africa.
Ikupolati who is a member of the central organising committee of the AIO, said markets are opening up, new industries are emerging and global shifts are encouraging, noting that the impact of the global financial crisis on the African continent in particular, has been cushioned by its limited holdings of stock share capital, adding that most essential credit lies with secure multi and bilateral structures like the World Bank and International Monetary Funds, Governments and nonprofit institutions.
Many African countries like Tanzania and Kenya are seeing a slow increase in economic growth unlike Somalia and Zimbabwe that are experiencing decline.
He said Botswana, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe are some of the hardest hit countries in southern Africa but hopeful that they will also wriggle out of it sometime soon.
Global economy, he noted, has noticeably shifted in the last decade as fast emerging economies like Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia and China are shifting global trade balances.
With China exporting far more than it imports, it is fast becoming one of the richest economies in the world but the impact on Africa like he said earlier, has been the opening of new trading relationships with many countries turning away from often poor trade relationships with western trading blocks to more favourable partnerships with middle income economies.
Ikupolati who doubles as the chairman of Transport and Accommodation of the conference noted that there has been a significant cutback in spending of insurance companies in Africa and around the globe because of the realisation that the world economy is truly global and interrelated.
He observed that Africa has made great strides over the last decade with improved governance, widespread efforts for improved governmental transparency and political reforms, yet there are still some challenges here and there.