Extreme storms, wildfires and droughts cause heavy nat cat losses in 2018

10 January 2019 Munich Re Group

  • Eventful second half of the year contributes to high overall loss figure of US$ 160bn.
  • Half of these losses were insured. Loss burden for insurers substantially higher than the long-term average.
  • Notably, there are clear indications of the influence that man-made climate change has hadon devastating wildfires in California, which,  like last year, again caused billions in losses in 2018.



Fortunately, Africa experienced a low number of natural catastrophes in 2018. Those which did take place, however, once again demonstrated the continent’s scant insurance coverage: almost none of the US$ 1.4bn of losses were insured. The most severe events were a drought in South Africa from January to May, with total losses of around US$ 500m, and flooding caused by heavy rainfall in Kenya between March and May (overall losses of around US$ 350m) and in Nigeria in September (overall losses in the region of US$ 280m).

The situation becomes even clearer when taking a longer-term perspective: from 1980 to 2018, natural catastrophes in Africa produced overall losses (adjusted for inflation) of US$ 54bn, of which just US$ 2.7bn were insured. Although South Africa experienced just US$ 12bn of the continent’s overall losses, the country accounted for the lion’s share of the insured losses (US$ 1.8bn). The natural disasters with the greatest humanitarian impact in Africa are famines which, although generally caused by drought, are heavily influenced by anthropogenic factors such as a lack of facilities for those in authoritarian states and regions affected by civil war.

Nico Conradie, CEO of Munich Re of Africa:
“With the exception of South Africa, this continent has one of the world’s lowest levels of insurance penetration. This whilst studies have shown that countries in which insurance solutions are an accepted instrument to better overcome economic shocks recover more quickly following severe catastrophes. That is why we are systematically working to offer effective and low-cost solutions on the basis of parametric weather triggers, for example, that facilitate rapid payout once a specific threshold is passed, say for precipitation or storms. Many African countries are growing rapidly, but a disaster can ruin the livelihoods of many people. Thanks to simple financial instruments to reduce economic vulnerability, they can quickly return to normality following a disaster – at least financially.

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