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Fast growing Zimbabwe diaspora spurs demand for funeral plans

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By Own Correspondent


LONDON, United Kingdom – In December 2023, Mavis Clinic Manyonga travelled to the Republic of Ireland from Zimbabwe, looking forward to spending the Christmas holidays with her daughter, Valerie Munashe Makuwe, a nurse in the town of Letterkenny, in Donegal County.

But there would be no Christmas festivities for mother and daughter. Within just 24 hours of her arrival in Ireland, Manyonga suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving her daughter shattered and heartbroken.

And as if that was not tragic enough, Valerie found herself faced with the challenging prospect of raising the more than US$11,300 needed for the repatriation of her mother’s body back to Zimbabwe for burial.

“The sudden loss has left Valerie inconsolable, and she now faces the immense challenge of bringing her mother’s remains back to Zimbabwe for a proper burial,” read a GoFundMe appeal for donations.

 

It is this double blow of grieving the passing of a loved one and, at the same time, appealing for help which inspired United Kingdom-based businessman Jeff Madzingo to establish Diaspora Insurance more than twelve years ago.

Madzingo felt there was need for a sustainable solution which ensured that diasporans did not have to beg for money or go into debt for funeral expenses as they grieved the passing of loved ones.

“Losing your loved one is traumatic enough, and having to grieve and beg at the same time is double trauma,” Madzingo said, sitting at his Birmingham office.

The traditional burial society or coffin and transport policies provided back home were not fit for this purpose; rather there needed to be a unique and innovative solution designed for diaspora communities who are transnational citizens as they belong to more than one country.

Madzingo, who has degrees in banking and finance, was initially touched by the plight of celebrated Zimbabwean musician Fortune Muparutsa, who died in the United Kingdom in October 2008. Without today’s online crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe, Muparutsa’s body spent nine months at a London funeral parlour because the £3,500 needed for repatriation could not be raised.

The personal tragedies of losing his best friend Lincoln Makotore and his brother Bernard Mutubuki less than one year apart in the United Kingdom made Madzingo realise the gravity and depth of the problem diasporans were facing in situations of bereavement.

He got inspired through tragedy to believe that there should be a better solution to the financial pain and havoc caused by diaspora death.

Burial societies and funeral director policies not up to the task

“Traditional funeral directors’ policies which were developed in the olden days are goods and services based and assumed that the policyholder is born locally, grows up locally, dies locally and gets buried locally which was largely true three decades ago,” said Madzingo.

“However, with the diaspora mass exodus, most people’s reality is far from being localised and that demanded innovation and crafting of a funeral insurance policy developed by diasporans to meet the needs of diasporans.

“Today, we live in a global village where people move from one country to another. People have become transnational; we belong to more than one country.

“You may have been born in Zimbabwe but now live in Australia, USA, Canada, UK alike. One may move from one diaspora country to another as globalisation and regional integration have made travel and relocation more seamless.

“Over time, one’s location and preference of final resting place are not fixed rather they are fluid choices. Your funeral policy should be versatile enough to meet evolving needs be it burial abroad, body repatriation, reverse repatriation or even cremation. Additionally, a correct and suitable cover should be worldwide protection without borders and must continue to cover you irrespective of wherever you travel to or choose to live. Talk of a transnational policy for transnational citizens.”

Filling a void … Jeff Madzingo founded Diaspora Insurance amid growing demand for repatriation of dead Zimbabweans from the diaspora

Madzingo established Diaspora Insurance, which offers a bespoke funeral cash plan under which diasporans can insure themselves in hard currency for up to £/€/$20,000. Policyholders can add themselves in the diaspora and family members back home in Africa or wherever they may be. The bespoke Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan is a guaranteed acceptance policy with no medicals at all and pays out cash immediately on proof of death.

The policy was cleverly designed not just to address the many shortcomings of mutual assistance schemes such as burial societies and the coffin and transport policies offered by funeral directors, but to treat customers fairly by giving them a policy that speaks to their needs and reality.

“People tend to be short sighted,” says Madzingo. “Traditional funeral policies offered by funeral directors focus on provision of coffin and transport and this has always left bereaved families indebted because there are a lot of funeral related expenses that these policies ignore.

“A suitably structured policy should also address the reality that when someone dies, there are costs like family travel, food, church service, flowers, photo/videography and livestreaming all of which would need money.

“After the funeral, the family will do a meeting and the first thing on the agenda is – when are we going to do the memorial; who is going to cover the cost of the memorial? If you are in the diaspora and have to travel, who is going to pay for that?

“Beyond the memorial, the bereaved family may want to buy a tombstone and have tombstone unveiling ceremony. Who is going to pay for all that? With a good hard currency cash funeral policy, the policyholder covers all that in the same policy.”

Hard currency hedge against inflation

The policy is also denominated in the hard currencies (US$, £, €, AU$, CA$, NZ$) which mitigates against currency volatility and inflationary loss of value risks, meaning your cover remains strong and good value for money.

“With a hard currency cash policy, the value of the policy over the long-term is more certain and that leaves no room for top-up gimmicks that are prevalent with funeral directors’ policies,” explained Madzingo.

“You can buy a funeral directors’ goods and services policy today and if you are blessed with another 20, 30, 40, 50 years of life, who would remember then what it was you bought? That’s how you end up with situations where people are being asked to pay top-ups like you are buying a new policy when someone dies.

“Go back in time to say 1990 and imagine if two people bought their funeral policies; one say a funeral cash policy of US$10,000 and the other person bought an ‘executive’ goods and services policy.

“Fast forward to today, the former would be very certain of the value of their policy whereas the later would be clueless what they were sold which results in ‘top-up’ trickery. Fast forward again into the future, people buying these traditional goods and services policies would suffer the same fate.”

Regulation by the FCA

Diaspora Insurance is authorised and regulated by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Policyholders are also protected under the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

“As a company, we are regulated and authorised in all the markets we operate, and the cover is also underwritten and reinsured through globally renowned and highly rated underwriters and reinsurers,” said Madzingo.

“Funeral insurance policies are by their nature long-term or whole of life policies and that makes it imperative that they are properly regulated for consumer protection. Regulators have the capacity, expertise and resources to assess in order to authorise and regulate providers.

“How a product is regulated matters because consumers need that protection, they don’t have the capacity and the expertise to always ascertain by themselves where a provider is regulated and authorised.

“You should never buy unregulated or unauthorised financial products because it may ultimately never benefit you. Always check who is regulating the product you are buying.”

The product has, over the years, helped thousands of families cope with the passing of loved ones; enabling them to focus on celebrating their lives and giving them a dignified send-off without worrying about the costs.

In September last year, student Darryl Gaikayi Machivenyika, was found dead in his room at a London university. Speaking during his funeral, his mother said having a Diaspora Insurance funeral cash policy made it easier for her to grieve the sudden loss of her son.

“Diaspora Insurance really helped me,” said Connie Machinenyika. “Yes, I was hurting and struggling to come to terms with the passing of my son, but on the financial side it was so easy.

“As soon as he passed, I contacted them (Diaspora Insurance) and gave them all the information they required. Within 24 hours, money had been deposited into my account and we were able to make arrangements for my son without any problems.

“The good thing about Diaspora Insurance is that they give you a cash plan, and when you have cash you can make your plans without any problems.”

Diaspora Insurance has grown into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, expanding coverage to 13 other African diaspora communities across the UK, Europe, the Americas as well as Australia.

“The product impact has been phenomenal and has changed people’s realities,” the company says on its website.

Continuous innovation

“Claim settlements to bereaved families is now in the region of US$5,000,000 and every time a family gets financial intervention it energises us to do more and that desire to help has always fuelled our growth.”

The company has continued to innovate in response to the changing needs of diaspora communities, particularly the surge in migration to the UK through a special visa system which was introduced to help address acute staffing shortages in the country’s health and social care services.

Better known as the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) scheme, the visa pathway saw some 38,000 Zimbabweans relocate to the UK in 2023 alone, according to a report by the country’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Tragically however, there has been a number of sudden death cases involving the new arrivals, with some dying after barely settling in their new jobs and environments.

In response to this challenge, Diaspora Insurance has now introduced a new CoS funeral cash scheme.

“People coming under CoS can join either as individuals or become part of the scheme through their employers. It’s good for employers to cover their employees and avoid a situation where they may have to pick up the cost of bereavement,” said Madzingo.

“So, we are being responsive, and we are trying to help as many people as we can. It’s part of our responsibility, it’s part of our policy to treat customers fairly to give them products that address their needs timeously and suitably.”

Diaspora Insurance has helped thousands of bereaved families across the world irrespective of their needs or change of location or choice whether to be buried abroad, body repatriation to country of origin, reverse repatriation from country of origin to diaspora country or even cremation as is demonstrated by these sample cases:

BODY REPATRIATION TO KENYA
REVERSE REPATRIATION TO DIASPORA COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE
BURIAL IN DIASPORA COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE
CREMATION

“Our clients are our family and ours is not work but a calling hence our work speaks for itself. Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan was designed by diasporans to serve diasporans and is common solution for common good of everyone especially diasporans” Madzingo added.

“After over a decade of delivering peace of mind one quickly realises that mottos ‘Your Dignified Send-off, Guaranteed!’ and ‘Peace Of Mind, Guaranteed!’ are not just promises but covenants that remind us every day of the duty and responsibility we have to diaspora clients.

“The yesteryear nightmares of bereavement begging whenever there was diaspora death have now been arrested and the diaspora community is now guaranteed the dignity to celebrate life.”

This is how you can contact Diaspora Insurance: UK landline: +44 121 295 1116 or Mobile/WhatsApp: UK WhatsApp
On WhatsApp: +44 770 3838 304