Ladies and Gentlemen, May I take this opportunity to welcome you to this year’s African Pension Supervisors Forum which is quite unique in its own way.
As you may recall from the previous conference held in Nairobi – Kenya in September of 2019, this year’s conference was slated for Kigali – Rwanda. However, due to the advent of the novel COVID-19 global pandemic, this could not be possible hence this virtual conference.
Indeed, a lot has happened since we first met in Nairobi for the inaugural meeting where Kenya was appointed to chair the newly created Africa Pension Supervisors Forum. Nigeria was elected to deputise Kenya with South Africa, Rwanda and Zambia elected executive members.
May I quickly remind you that the interim office was scheduled to run for two years from January 2020 to December 2021- when the interim committee shall hand over to a new committee that we shall elect.
The committee’s mandate was to come up with a legal framework on how the secretariat shall run in collaboration with International Organisation of Pension Supervisors (IOPS). Equally, we agreed that an African body independent of IOPS, which has only 15 African members, could be useful in encouraging other African countries to join IOPS for the purpose of sharing knowledge and jointly drive grown of Africa’s Pension Industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, Having given that brief preview of the previous conference, allow me to mention that this year’s virtual conference is themed around the effects of COVID-19 on the pensions industry across the African continent and the future outlook post the pandemic.
At this point, it is important to highlight that the outbreak and continued persistence of the novel Covid-19 global health pandemic has destabilized the global economic order by causing severe economic disruptions and slowdown in economic activities. In the international scene, severe disruptions across all activities have been witnessed. Equally, countries have imposed restrictions on movement of people thus resulting in sharp increase in unemployment levels, constrained supply chains and reduced production. A Global Financial markets volatility has also been witnessed.
In my country Kenya, for instance, we have witnessed similar interruptions resulting in a revision of GDP growth rate from 5.4% in 2019 to 2.3% in 2020. The general investment environment has been affected with investors (including pension funds) losing value in the stock market.
Now to our sector which is the Pension Sector, there have been a number of disruptions with direct and indirect impacts to members and sponsors of pension schemes. Specifically, there has been a general decline in pension contributions due job losses & unpaid leaves, applications for suspension of contributions by sponsors/employers and investment Losses especially in stocks, property rentals and offshore investments.
Ladies and gentlemen, I presume the issues highlighted reverberates across jurisdictions represented in this forum. Such discussions constitute a greater part of our agenda for the next two days.
As a starter-pack, it will be interesting to listen to experience of various pension supervisors on how they have dealt with the impact of COVID-19 on the Pension Industry in their own jurisdictions.
Equally as a continent, we cannot ignore the all-time challenges that continue to affect our industry such as low pension penetration level, meagre investment returns and low levels of savings for retirement particularly during this time of crisis where some of these challenges have been exacerbated. I therefore seek your indulgence on the best possible mechanisms to address some of these challenges identified.
Looking into the future, pension plans are poised to leverage more on technology than they have in the past given lessons learnt during the pandemic. It would be important to propose new models going forward to the pensions sector. Such models should also incorporate issues of consumer protection, financial literacy and communication in times of crisis.
This virtual conference will eventually discuss how pensions schemes have been able to undertake investment of assets in the wake of COVID-19 in a prudent and sustainable manner.
I’m certain that with the above outlined agenda, our conference will be well encompassing and enriching. I therefore look forward to sharing of ideas on practical regulatory and supervisory responses aimed at helping our jurisdictions recover from the crisis.
Finally, I wish you a fruitful deliberations and successful event.