Jamii Africa is a micro-insurance health startup that provides health insurance targeted at Tanzania’s low income population through their mobile phones. Jamii launched in January 2015 and has built a mobile policy management platform that performs all the administration activities of an insurer, and allows users to access cheap insurance via USSD, starting at $1 per month.
The low income population of Tanzania, 47 million people in total, earns less than $70 a month. For them, income is also dynamic and savings is a luxury. This population ends up facing high rate of maternal deaths, home births and deaths from curable diseases. Jamii comes as the much needed solution to this ignored population. Their mobile technology performs all the administration activities of the insurer. Jamii is matched in strategic partnership with Jubilee Insurance and Vodacom. This helps cut insurance administration cost by 95% and they can offer a health insurance product for as little as $1 a month.
In Tanzania, the penetration of health insurance is as low as 4.5%. The majority of Tanzania’s low-income and informal workers do not have access to insurance and struggle to pay for health services.
Jamii spoke to insurance players to understand why they were not developing products for this market segment. Apparently, administration costs are too high to create a product affordable to someone who makes $70 or less a month. Jamii unpacked the administration costs and realized the cost drivers were simple things around the registration and providing a plastic card. So, they looked at whether using a mobile phone would enable to remove these costs and activities that make up ‘administration’. This enabled them to provide insurance products costing as low as $1 a month. They work in partnership with telco Vodacom, and Jubilee Insurance of Tanzania, which works with a network of about 500 health facilities. Jamii uses Vodacom’s mobile money platform for premium collection and making payments to hospitals.
At the launch of the product, most people were excited by the idea of buying insurance for $1 a month. However, Jamii faced challenges – particularly with education, which is a typical hurdle for micro-insurance providers. The target group have a minimal general education and the financial education is zero, so talking insurance is a tough conversation. Jamii realized they had to really invest in education. Right now they have 8.000 customers (mostly based in Dar es Salaam), and their target is to cover 3 million customers nationally by the end of 2017. With the help of their partners – including Barclays Techstars Accelerator and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – this must be achievable.
Lessons learned: One-on-one conversations
For micro-insurance to make a sale you have to have one-on-one conversations with target customers. Only sending an SMS or doing TV and radio broadcasts won’t work. It has to be a combination of grassroots activation activities and above-the-line marketing. The most important piece is the grassroots activation activities, which is time-consuming and needs a large workforce on the ground. But when you convince one person, the households around them easily buy in. So Jamii needs to invest a lot in one-on-one conversations.
Why we selected Jamii for DIA Amsterdam?
The product Jamii, stands out as a highly innovative product which has and will impact the population in Tanzania and Africa by providing cheap mobile micro health insurance to the population that needs health insurance the most.
Who are Jamii?
Jamii (previously known as bimaAFYA) is founded in 2015 by Lilian Makoi. Lilian Makoi is doing her part to transform her country through innovative solutions. Although she’s co-founded a number of start-ups her main focus is Jamii Africa. The startup has just raised US $750,000 seed funding for expanding across the country and into East and Central Africa. The spark to create Jamii came from a personal experience. Her friend lost her husband who was involved in an accident but could not afford medical services. That experience made her realize that if low-income households and people in the informal sector had access to insurance, it would make a big difference for them.
Lilian has won the TAYPA awards – Pioneer Category for developing the breakthrough product. She works with her husband who is as innovative. They both enjoy researching and building solutions together, and mentoring people.
“If it is not new, risky & disruptive, we don’t put our efforts to it.” Lilian Makoi, founder Jamii
Presenter: Lilian Makoi