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Arab Insurance Market Review

There is little information on the arab insurance market due to the developing natures of their economies. This is what arabicinsurance has found so far.

"As a market Insurance premiums in the Middle East are about US$5.3 billion last year - that's less than 1% of the global total, but it's up 12% on the year before and growth is expected to continue in the near future: some predict that Middle East insurance premiums will hit US$44 billion by 2010. Growing populations and incomes, more stringent and sophisticated regulation, increasing public awareness, and more and more insurance products geared specifically to Muslim customers, are all expected to help propel the industry forward during the coming decade."

"Premiums per capita even more pointedly illustrate how much room there is for growth: Insurance premiums in the UAE averaged US$310 per person in 2003, US$149 per person in Kuwait and just US$41 per person in Saudi Arabia. That's a fraction of the premiums paid by policyholders in Taiwan, who shelled out an average of US$1,433 in insurance premiums last year, and in Singapore, where the per capita average was US$1,620 - not to mention the premiums earned in highly developed insurance markets, such as the UK, where the average person paid more than US$4,000 in premiums last year."

Currently, the UAE is the biggest insurance market in the GCC, with US$971 million in premiums last year. But countries such as Singapore and Taiwan, which have a GDP per capita at about the same level as the UAE, enjoy much higher insurance premium levels - US$9 billion and US$32 billion, respectively. With an insurance penetration rate of just 1.1% of GDP, the Emirates still have a long way to go to catch up with Singapore's 7.6% and Taiwan's 11.3% penetration.- http://www.itp.net

Arab Life Insurance Market

Experts believe that life insurers in the region should remain optimistic, in part because of the usual dynamics of increasing affluence. Swiss Re noted in a recent study that the "demand for insurance to cover the risks of old age and death increases in tandem with rising per-capita income," and the Middle East, particularly the Gulf countries, have witnessed strong economic growth during the past few years: from 1998 to 2002, for example, the UAE saw GDP per capita rise almost 60%; Kuwait, 37%; Oman, about 34%; Bahrain, 26%; and Saudi Arabia, 8%.

The local life insurance industries have risen in parallel in some of these markets. In Kuwait, for example, life insurance premiums more than doubled from 1998 to 2002; in the UAE, premiums rose 45% during that same time period; and in Bahrain they went up 28%. However, in Saudi Arabia and Oman, life premiums declined, 4% and 6%, respectively.

In the UAE, where life premiums totalled US$226 million last year, insurance companies see much room for growth and are designing products to try to capture the market. The big insurers are stepping in to help fill that gap: Zurich International Life, one of the UAE's biggest life insurers, recently launched a product here geared specifically towards high-income expatriates. Some regional players are also making moves in the same direction. In October, Oman Insurance Company, another major local player, launched a new capital-guaranteed savings product in cooperation with Société Générale and said it would also offer it in other markets in the region.

Arab Insurance Market Growth

The Arab Insurance Market review, an annual study published by Bahrain-based Arab Insurance Group (AIG), noted in its most recent report that GDP in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to grow by an average of 3.6% annually until 2010, while the population in the region is estimated to reach 330 million during the next six years, from 282 million last year.

There is huge potential in Saudi Arabia which currently has the lowest insurance penetration of any market in the world, at just 0.5% of GDP. The world average is 3.8%, while its GCC neighbours have penetration rates that are more than double Saudi's: 1.1% in the UAE, for example, and 1.2% in Oman. The average spending per person on insurance in Saudi Arabia last year was just US$41.20 - Premiums per person in Lithuania and Argentina, which have a GDP per capita close to Saudi Arabia's, were almost twice that level.

General insurance accounted for 96% of insurance spending in Saudi Arabia last year, whereas the average spent on life insurance was a measly US$1.70 per person. This breakdown between general and life insurance is particularly dramatic in Saudi Arabia, but it reflects the larger situation in the region, where general insurance massively overshadows the life market. General insurance premiums in the five GCC countries for which 2003 data is available totalled US$2.2 billion; life insurance premiums were only US$416 million.

More Info on Qatar Insurance Market, UAE Insurance Market can be found here.

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