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Nigeria’s insurtech Curacel eyes expansion to Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Thursday, 29 April 2021 13:24

Henry Mascot, CEO of Nigerian insurtech Curacel. Photo supplied.

Nigeria’s Curacel, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect insurance fraud, plans to expand to seven African countries by the end of this year, CEO Henry Mascot tells The Africa Report.

The advantage of offering cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) it that Curacel can go anywhere, Mascot says. The company’s strategy is to follow its insurance company clients such as AXA Mansard, Liberty Health and Old Mutual into national markets where they have scale. Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire are top priorities, Mascot says.

Mascot says reducing insurance fraud in hospitals is one of his goals. The company works with more than 800 hospitals in Nigeria, Ghana, and Uganda using AI to replace manual form checking — which is labour-intensive — with automated processes using cloud software.

Non-valid claims may be filed by hospitals anywhere in the world, Mascot says. Typical cases include slightly changing existing claim forms and recycling them as new ones, or creating claim forms for people who never even went to hospital, he says.

Curacel started out as an electronic health information management system for clinics; the strategy changed to targeting insurers when the company realised the scale of fraud. Improving fraud detection can drive African insurance penetration forward, Mascot says.

“If we can reduce fraud, companies will be more profitable and can offer better products.” Only a small percentage of hospitals file fraudulent claims, he says. “A few bad apples can cost the industry a lot.”

Curacel also aims to expand to Tanzania, Rwanda, Senegal and Morocco this year. The company, set up in 2017, is also working on a Curacel Capital product which will allow hospitals to get their claims paid faster.

The model used may be a kind of invoice factoring, where invoices receivable are settled by a third party, who pays most of the money immediately and then collects the amount from the customer.

‘Founder’s Market’

Global investment into insurtech has been accelerating. According to Willis Towers Watson, global insurtech funding hit a record of $2.55bn in the first quarter, up 22% from the fourth quarter of 2020. Existing investors in Curacel include Atlantica Ventures, Consonance and Kepple Ventures.

Insurers need “co-expertise” from younger tech-savvy generations, Mascot says. “Young entrepreneurs know how to build better tools.” Curacel’s solutions also cover travel and auto insurance.

The company is planning a seed funding round by the end of this year, which it hopes to close in the first quarter of 2022. The funding may be a combination of equity and debt while the amount sought will be in the millions of dollars, which will be used to fund expansion, Mascot says.

He sees an element of ‘fintech fatigue’ which opens the door for insurtech.  “We have a healthy runway” of funding, Mascot says. “It’s a founders’ market.”

Bottom line

Curacel is betting that African insurers can leapfrog the paper-based inefficiency of insurance companies in the West.

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