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Senegal, Cameroon, Benin and Ghana: Meet Africa’s latest stars of the start-up world

By Quentin Velluet
Posted on Tuesday, 2 February 2021 15:12

SewedoProd/Assuraf ; Izikare ; DR ; SUSU © SewedoProd/Assuraf ; Izikare ; DR ; SUSU

While the entrepreneurial dynamism of Kenya and South Africa currently dominates the connected insurance sector, Central and West Africa are not far behind. Coming from Senegal, Cameroon, Benin and Ghana, these “disruptors” have taken over one of the oldest professions in finance to offer connected and accessible services.

We have chosen to highlight these four entrepreneurs because of their backgrounds and the solutions they offer in their home countries and beyond.

Whether they are motivated by personal experience, a strong passion for technology or by both, all of them have set themselves the mission of responding to everyday health needs, namely facilitating access to care and covering its costs.

Souleymane Gning, founder of Assuraf (SewedoProd/Assuraf)

1. Souleymane Gning – Assuraf (Senegal)

Taking advantage of good telecom practices, such as the principle of performance indicators, was the basis of this 40-year-old Senegalese engineer’s idea for Assuraf.

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Trained in telecommunications in France, Souleymane Gning is one of those people who believes that an entrepreneurial spirit takes precedence over a clear-cut hierarchical progression. After starting out at SFR, this double MBA graduate of HEC and Darden Business School in the US decided to return to Senegal in 2003. He then spent the next three years working at Sonatel, where he designed and managed the launch of multiple value-added services (USSD, SMS, WAP platforms).

This was followed by more than ten years in positions of responsibility at several telecom and technology groups, including Cisco in the US, Swisscom in Switzerland and Upstream in the UK.

In 2018, he founded eConnect, his own consulting firm for telecoms and digital technologies. It was in this context – after an insurance project failed to take off – that he created Assuraf, a platform that digitises the entire value chain in the insurance sector, from underwriting to payment, customer service and claims reporting.

Bertrand Nkengne, CEO of Izikare. © Izikare

2. Bertrand Nkengne – Izikare (Cameroon)

It was a personal and intimate loss that pushed Bertrand Nkengne into the world of insurance in 2018. It began with a sick relative in Cameroon, followed by regular phone calls from his family back home asking for funds to cover the cost of his treatment, and then the discovery that these funds were sometimes being used for other purposes and, in the end, the tragic news…

His Izikare platform allows people throughout the African diaspora to insure their relatives for a minimum of €0.50 per day, guaranteeing them access to a network of 900 certified practitioners.

Nkengne graduated from the University of Technology of Compiègne with a degree in computer engineering, holds a certificate from Babson College in Boston and completed an MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation at HEC Paris. He was, for a time, the manager of a franchise specialised in buying and selling second-hand equipment in the Paris suburbs. In 2006, he co-founded Cyslog, an IT consulting company. Supported by BPIFrance, his start-up Izikare is incubated by HEC at Station F in Paris.

Korshi Da Seglah, CEO of Korba © Korba

3. Nelson Korshi Da Seglah – Korba (Ghana)

In September 2020, his company entered into a partnership with Prudential – a British global insurance heavyweight – for a time led by Tidjane Thiam, who has been present in Ghana ever since he acquired Express Life Insurance in 2013.

Nelson Korshi Da Seglah – a Ghanaian information systems engineer- founded Korba, an interoperable payment solution, in 2014. It has just recently added a new string to its bow by offering health and life insurance to its customers.

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The former executive manager of UT Bank, a specialist in e-business, is using traditional marketing to offer his new product as a loyalty tool.

Bola Bardet, founder of Susu © SUSU

4. Bola Bardet – Susu (Benin)

Bola Bardet from Benin also entered the world of insurance following the loss of a relative due to the lack of locally adapted medical structures.

Created in 2018, Susu offers – like Izikare – health coverage in Côte d’Ivoire, paid for by members of the diaspora.

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This telecommunications graduate has been able to take advantage of digitalisation to seduce Allianz – which is one of its partners and one of the world’s largest medical insurance providers – via a mobile application that offers remote payment, personalised medical monitoring, and simplified products. She also completed an MBA at HEC and manages her activities from Station F in Paris.