Pandemic outbreak tops Kenya business risks

Pandemic outbreak tops Kenya business risks

The pandemic is adding to the growing list of non-physical damage BI scenarios such as cyber or power blackouts.

By Antony Mutunga

2020 was not a good year for many as COVID-19 ravaged the world, disrupting lives and entire economies. No one had anticipated the risk the pandemic brought to the corporate world. 

Business interruption (#1 with 41 percent responses) and Pandemic outbreak (#2 with 40 percent) are this year’s top business risks with Cyber incidents (#3 with 40 percent) ranking a close third, the annual survey on global business risks from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) shows. 

“The Allianz Risk Barometer 2021 is clearly dominated by the Covid-19 trio of risks. Business interruption, pandemic and cyber are strongly interlinked, demonstrating the growing vulnerabilities of our highly globalized and connected world,” says Joachim Müller, CEO of AGCS. 

“The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that risk management and business continuity management need to further evolve in order to help businesses prepare for, and survive, extreme events. While the pandemic continues to have a firm grip on countries around the world, we also have to ready ourselves for more frequent extreme scenarios, such as a global-scale cloud outage or cyber-attack, natural disasters driven by climate change or even another outbreak.”

The Covid-19 crisis continues to represent an immediate threat to both individual safety and businesses, reflecting why pandemic outbreak has rocketed 15 positions up to #2 in the rankings at the expense of other risks. Prior to 2021, it had never finished higher than #16 in 10 years of the Allianz Risk Barometer, a clearly underestimated risk. However, in 2021, it’s the number one risk in 16 countries and among the three biggest risks across all continents and in 35 out of the 38 countries which qualify for a top 10 risks analysis. Japan, South Korea and Ghana are the only exceptions. 

Market developments (#4 with 19 percent) also climbs up the Allianz Risk Barometer 2021, reflecting the risk of rising insolvency rates following the pandemic. According to Euler Hermes, the bulk of insolvencies will come in 2021. The trade credit insurer’s global insolvency index is expected to hit a record high for bankruptcies, up 35 percent by the end of 2021, with top increases expected in the US, Brazil, China and core European countries. 

Further, Covid-19 will likely spark a period of innovation and market disruption, accelerating the adoption of technology, hastening the demise of incumbents and traditional sectors and giving rise to new competitors. Other risers include Macroeconomic developments (#8 with 13 percent) and Political risks and violence (#10 with 11 percent) which are, in large part, a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak, too. Fallers in this year’s survey include Changes in legislation and regulation (#5 with 19 percent), Natural catastrophes (#6 with 17 percent), Fire/explosion (#7 with 16 percent), and Climate change(#9 with 13 percent), all clearly superseded by pandemic concerns.

Inaugural business risks

Pandemic outbreak is the #1 business risk in Kenya with 56 percent of responses for the country’s inaugural Allianz Risk Barometer. Business interruption and Market developments are joint second with 33 percent of responses followed by Climate change/increasing volatility of weather. Cyber incidents is the #5 risk and Natural catastrophe is at #9. 

The pandemic shows that global-scale Business Interruption (BI) events are not just theoretical, but a real possibility, causing loss of revenues and disruption to production, operations and supply chains. 59 percent of respondents highlight the pandemic as the main cause of BI in 2021, followed by Cyber incidents (46 percent) and Natural catastrophes and Fire and explosion (around 30 percent each). 

The pandemic is adding to the growing list of non-physical damage BI scenarios such as cyber or power blackouts.

“The consequences of the pandemic – wider digitalization, more remote working and the growing reliance on technology of businesses and societies – will likely heighten BI risks in coming years,” explains Philip Beblo, expert in AGCS’s global Property underwriting team. “However, traditional physical risks will not disappear and must remain on the risk management agenda. Natural catastrophes, extreme weather or fire remain the main causes of BI for many industries and we continue to see a trend for larger losses over time.”

In response to heightened BI vulnerabilities, many companies are aiming to build more resilient operations and to de-risk their supply chains. Improving business continuity management is the main action companies are taking (62 percent), followed by developing alternative or multiple suppliers (45 percent), investing in digital supply chains (32 percent) and improved supplier selection and auditing (31 percent). 

According to AGCS experts, many companies found their plans where quickly overwhelmed by the pace of the pandemic. Business continuity planning needs to become more holistic, cross-functional, and dynamic, monitor and measure emerging or extreme loss scenarios, be constantly updated and tested and embedded into an organization’s strategy. 

Cyber perils intensify

Cyber incidents may have slipped to #3 but it remains a key peril with more respondents than in 2020 and still ranking as a top three risk in many countries, including Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Spain, UK and the US. The acceleration towards greater digitalization and remote working driven by the pandemic is also further intensifying IT vulnerabilities. 

At the peak of the first wave of lockdowns in April 2020, the FBI reported a 300 percent increase in incidents alone, while cyber crime is now estimated to cost the global economy over $1trn, up 50 percent from two years ago. Already high in frequency, ransomware incidents are becoming more damaging, increasingly targeting large companies with sophisticated attacks and hefty extortion demands. 

“Attackers are innovating using automated scanning to identify security gaps, attacking poorly secured routers or even using ‘deep fakes’ – realistic media content modified or falsified by artificial intelligence. At the same time, data protection and privacy regulation and fines for data breaches continue their upward trend,” says Catharina Richter, Global Head of the Allianz Cyber Center of Competence at AGCS. 

Risers and fallers 

Macroeconomic developments is up to #8 and Political risks and violence (#10) returns to the top 10 for the first time since 2018, reflecting the fact that civil unrest, protests and riots now challenge terrorism as the main exposure for companies. The number, scale and duration of many recent events, including Black Lives Matter protests, anti-lockdown demonstrations and unrest around the US presidential election, have been exceptional. As the socioeconomic fallout from Covid-19 mounts, further political and social unrest is likely, with many countries expected to experience an increase in activity in 2021 and beyond, particularly in Europe and the Americas.

Changes in legislation and regulation drops from #3 to #5 year-on-year. “The pandemic may have caused some delays of the regulatory train, but it did not stop or even derail it. Quite the opposite, 2021 promises to become a very busy year in terms of new legislation and regulation, particularly in the areas of data and sustainability,” predicts Ludovic Subran, Chief Economist at Allianz. 

Natural catastrophes falls to #6 from #4, reflecting the fact that although aggregated losses from multiple smaller events such as wildfires or tornadoes still led to widespread devastation and considerable insured losses in 2020, it was also the third consecutive year without a single large event, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017. 

Climate change also falls to #9. The risk sits at #4 in Kenya. However, the need to combat climate change remains as high as ever, given 2020 was the joint hottest year ever recorded. “With the vaccination campaign coming into effect, climate change will be back on the board agenda as a priority in 2021,” says Michael Bruch, Global Head of ESG at AGCS. “Many companies need to adjust their business for a low-carbon world – and risk managers need to be at the forefront of this transition.” (

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