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Kenyan innovator Jihan Abass is helping to improve lives on the African continent through Lami Technologies–democratizing insurance.

As the founder and CEO of Lami Technologies which was founded about 4 years ago, Jihan is focused on increasing insurance penetration in the developing world. 

 “A lot of the time, people are relying on single sources of income, but they’re not insuring those sources of income so, if one thing goes wrong, they lose everything,” said the Lami insurtech startup founder.

So far, she has been able to employ about 50 employees at Lami Technologies with companies and banks using their solutions to improve their services.

In an insightful interview with Lioness Weekender, we learnt more about Lami and her ambitions:

What does your company do?

“Lami is a B2B2C Insurance-as-a-Service platform and API. Lami has digitized the entire insurance value-chain end to end from KYC, pricing, underwriting and claims processing all in one platform and API that can be used to distribute any type of insurance product at any point of sale.”

What inspired you to start your company?

“My perspective on life and the impact I wanted my life to have on the world. I worked in a job where making money was the dominant motivation. For me, that didn’t seem like enough, and it’s also not what I wanted to stand for as a human being. 

Also, the opportunity to revolutionize the insurance business presented itself at the right time. I was thinking about going back home. The more I learned about the problems within the industry, the more it became apparent that this was what I needed to do to have an impact on the insurance landscape. It was quite scary. I had only recently graduated from university. I was still getting my bearings in my career, but I was not fulfilled. I never felt connected to what I was doing. And I didn’t want to be disappointed with where I ended up in 5 or 10 years if I stayed. I became obsessed with the insurance space after a waiter mentioned to me in conversation that they didn’t have medical insurance. I began researching to understand the driving force behind the huge gap. That’s when I learned that less than 3% of people have access to insurance products in Africa.”

Why should anyone use your service or product?

“The main idea for the Lami API is to be a one-stop-shop for the entire insurance ecosystem. If a partner uses our API, they don’t need to think about anything that aids the process of buying insurance. How it works is that we have insurance companies that plug into our platform. Right now, we have about 25 insurance companies. 

On the other side, we have businesses that can create products that these insurance companies underwrite. Businesses can then plug our API into any point of sale. It can be an app, website, PoS machine, or whatever distribution model works best. We have a portal for partners and for agents to manage insurance sales. In this portal, they can see how different products are performing.”

Tell us a little about your team?

“We have a global team spanning five time zones which are the backbone of this company. The modern work environment and company culture have allowed us to have access to a variety of talent, and we have been able to collaborate and work together globally. We wouldn’t have such a big footprint across the continent without their creative thinking and delivery.”

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

“My background is in financial services. After graduating from Bayes Business School, I worked as a commodities future’s trader in London. I did that for a couple of years before leaving to start Lami. In my transition, I was fortunate to have a safety net. I could go home to my family and have the space to build from the ground up without any looming pressure. 

For others who may find themselves in a similar situation of not being fulfilled by their career and want to start something, I would say work until you don’t need to work or can’t balance both because entrepreneurship is difficult.  

For me, making that leap into entrepreneurship wasn’t as difficult a choice because I come from a family of entrepreneurs, my dad and my grandfather, so it’s something that I saw a lot of growing up. It was something that I knew I wanted for myself as well.”

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

“We have a first-mover advantage in the space we’re in, insurance APIs, so the goal is to dominate the area and be the leaders in digital insurance distribution, whether in Africa or in other developing countries, which face similar challenges. 

We want to reach a billion dollars in premiums and underwrite policies for millions of people because we do not believe that a lack of insurance is a lack of a safety net. We aim to provide that safety net and use technology as the driving force behind it.”

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

“The learning opportunity due to the high growth and fast-paced environment has been incredibly interesting. Growing the team has been particularly rewarding for me. Especially growing the company during covid, building a company culture that aligns with our values with our workforce being 80% remote and successfully accessing talent worldwide unlimited by geographic location. 

Innovative insurance plans, Lami’s platform and API allows current insurance companies to digitize their existing offerings, seamlessly linking with underwriters and access dashboards with detailed customer data to enhance decision-making.”

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

“What has kept me grounded is my belief that you should never let yourself quit; believe in yourself. We may face problems and obstacles, but we should learn from them and grow. It is also essential to stay focused on your vision but try different ways to solve it the core problem. 

Sometimes, we start with one solution but soon discover that it will not work and quickly figure out other options to solve that same problem. Finally, company culture and values are crucial to achieving your vision. Entrepreneurs should pay a lot of attention to communication with and within the team, put good recruitment processes and promote the correct values throughout the organisation.”

One quote for us that shows how much Jihan Abass desires to improve the lives of Africans is this:

“How can we get insurance to as many people as possible, in the simplest and the easiest way? That’s the main vision for us—is really to create accessibility.”

By Elijah Christopher

 

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Elijah Christopher is a lifelong creative artist and a journalist for “A New Touch Of Africa”, an American news media and magazine focusing on Africa-related issues, fashion, new technologies and innovations. He has contributed to several published works, most notably a collaborative poem celebrating Scottish poet Edwin Morgan and in 2021 was the winner of the DIAJ Award for his photo-artistry.

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