Kenyan insurtech startup Lami enters Malawi, DRC after acquiring Bluewave, eyes rest of Africa

Kenyan insurtech startup Lami Technologies has acquired Bluewave Insurance Agency for an undisclosed amount as it seeks to make insurance covers accessible to more people across Africa.

Bluewave insurance, also a Kenyan startup, was founded by Adelaide Odhiambo, who now joins Lami as the head of commercial partnerships.

Since its launch in 2016, Bluewave has built an online platform that allows clients to access micro-insurance products through diverse channels, including USSD, SMS, WhatsApp chatbots and web applications. In the new arrangement, Lami will integrate Bluewave’s technology into its core platform, further enhancing its B2B2C capabilities.

The deal has also opened up new markets for Lami in Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where Bluewave already has operations. By having access to Malawi, for instance, Lami will tap thousands of smallholder farmers, including the 60,000 already on Bluewave’s database.

Lami Technologies founder and CEO Jihan Abass, during an interview about the acquisition, told TechCrunch that, “One of the things that really made us excited about this opportunity was the fact that we are working towards a very common vision of democratizing access to insurance. Our visions were very much aligned.”

“The Bluewave team had created modules (like USSD-based micro insurance products), which we felt could particularly enhance our B2B2C offerings. They’ve done quite a lot of work around claims modules for micro insurance products. All these different things can be integrated into the core Lami platform. We can also continue to build on top of it, and also use parts of our technology to enhance offerings, like our advanced pricing modules, to make that experience much better,” said Abass.

Lami Technologies

Lami is eyeing additional markets in North and West Africa this year. Image Credits: Lami Technologies

The acquisition comes at a time when Lami is looking to enter Nigeria and a number of countries in North Africa. Outside Kenya, Lami is in other markets like Uganda and Tanzania through partnerships.

“We’re looking at additional markets this year. That’s our core focus and why this acquisition was super-exciting; it gives us the upper hand as we continue to expand,” she said.

Innovations and expansion of digital services like Lami’s are driving insurance uptake by allowing micro-payments, flexible sign-ups, fast-turnaround time for claims and access to a wide range of services through mobile phones. In Africa, insurance penetration is less than 3%; and if you take out South Africa the coverage drops to 1.2%. It is this gap that drove Abass to build Lami, which was launched in Kenya in 2018.

Lami co-designs products with its underwriting partners, extending unique insurance products to their customers, and through its technological infrastructure, facilitates the distribution of insurance products via a B2B2C approach.

The startup’s API allows entities like banks to offer digital insurance products to their customers — reaching the masses conveniently. Over the years, Lami has integrated its API with 12 entities in various sectors, including logistics, e-commerce, banking and fintech, extending different products to their users.

Among the companies that Lami has existing partnerships with is Sendy, a digital logistics startup, and Kwara, a neobank for credit unions.

The partnership with Sendy enables freight carriers in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) to access transit insurance per-trip basis, while its work with Kwara makes insurance products accessible to the over 60,000 SACCO members.

As technology continues to inspire new products and processes, Abbas projects that the insurance sector is going to face constant disruption geared towards more personalized products.

“You’re going to see a lot more data driven pricing that takes into account the risks involved,” she said.

“And I think that’s going to really help make products more affordable, because there’ll be more customized products. I think we’re also going to see a lot more use of AI, particularly around claims processing and also for pricing.”