A new reinsurance company targeting the African market has been launched in London, with backing from private investment firm Helios Investment Partners.

The Africa Speciality Risk Group (ASR) has been set up by Mikir Shah, previously CEO of AXA Africa Specialty Risks, and Bryan Howett, who formerly served as CEO for Old Mutual’s pan-African reinsurance operations.

Shah has taken on the CEO role of the new company, which currently has 10 employees, while co-founder Howett is CFO.

A spokesperson for Helios declined to comment on the amount it invested in the new firm, but says that it will have representation on the board, and will provide the co-founders with guidance on how to transition from a startup to a fully established business.

ASR will provide risk mitigation and insurance products to local and international businesses trading in Africa, and will use Africa-specific pricing models.

Speaking about the new company, Souleymane Ba, a partner at Helios, says: “We have identified a sustained lack of adequate insurance capacity across Africa, which has been exacerbated further by Covid-19, as global reinsurance providers focus on their home markets.”

He adds: “ASR has been established to address this gap by providing specialist risk mitigation products which companies and capital providers operating in Africa have found difficult to access to date.”

Helios notes in a statement that ASR intends to work with local regulators and clients to develop skills and provide training to local underwriters.

Meanwhile, the company adds that its investment into ASR has been made from its latest fund, Helios Investors IV, LP, which counts UK development finance institution CDC Group and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) as members.