by Thomas Mupfuka
Cell Insurance group is planning to expand its reach across the region before year end as part of efforts to bolster its capacity to earn foreign currency and preserve products value.
The diversified insurance services group says it is in the process of realigning its products after clients lost value following monetary policy pronouncements earlier this year.
Cell Insurance CEO Isheunesu Makuzwa, told Standardbusiness in an interview that the group was now in a drive to pull in foreign currency from the region as a way of cushioning its local operations from macroeconomic volatility.
“We are in a drive to grow our US dollars earnings so that we diversify our risk,” he said.
“We are currently a significant shareholder in Lidwala Insurance Company in Swaziland, a company that we initiated and grew with the financial support of our Swaziland partners.
“This was a first entrance into the region. We are now busy exploring other markets in the Sadc region so that we not only support our local operations with forex but also aid the nation in building its foreign currency earnings,”
Locally, the group has now put optional US dollar charges on its products to clients who prefer payment in foreign currency mainly due the soaring exchange rate.
“We have, however, realigned our products to the environment based on modest price increases,” Makuzwa said.
“We are also now able to offer US dollars clients to those clients, who prefer payment through US$ as part of the basket of currencies being used in the country.
“We welcome the floating exchange rate, which we hope will go a long way towards containing the parallel market rate.”.
Makuzwa said their pricing was not linked to the movement of the exchange rate on the parallel market.
“We try by all means not to observe the parallel market rate. In any case, our pricing is mainly based on inflation, which as you know, is not directly related to the exchange rate,” he said.
“Indeed, within the group there are some services that are directly related to the exchange rate, on those, that rate applies”.
“I am not oblivious to the costs of inputs out there, which are based on the parallel rate.
“We try by all means to negotiate with our suppliers realistic pricing in exchange of timely payments.
“That way we mitigate the increases in a big way. Beyond that, we are now writing a bit of US dollar business.
“This has also allowed us to ensure that our members and clients benefit from this currency.
“As a company, we are, therefore, working very hard to grow our balance sheet in terms of US dollars so that we can effectively underwrite a bigger part of our risks onto our balance sheet.
“As we stand now, we work with reinsurers to ensure that our client’s risks are effectively covered and we gradually grow our US dollar balance sheet.”
Makuzwa added that the group would leverage on its shareholder’s asset base to diversify into other businesses.
“We recently launched our new subsidiary, Nectacare Pvt Ltd, which offers health services with surgery, dental and retail pharmacy in Harare, a hospital in Shurugwi, a policlinic and pharmacy in Zvishavane and also a surgery, retail pharmacy and another hospital also in Zvishavane,” he added.
“Nectacare will shortly be opening a 24-hr operation in Bulawayo and a harmacy in Mutare.
“Within the current operations, we also recently re-launched our Cell concept, which has two options being the Contingency Policy and the Capitalised Cells”.