A Solid Head at the Helm of the Actuary Society of Kenya
Sahib Singh Khosla has, under his belt, a list of notable achievements and firsts. He was the inaugural Kenyan National Actuarial Scholar to City University London’s Bayes Business School, through a project that has contributed to a large number of the approximately 65 qualified actuaries in Kenya. He is the only Actuary in academia in the sub-Saharan Africa region. He has also been highly instrumental in the awarding of Kenyan citizenship status to a sub-sect of the stateless persons living in Kenya in 2021, a feat accomplished in four and a half years.
His natural traits – being analytical and viewing the world from a risk perspective – make him a perfect fit in this sector. He believes that the field is not only for intellectually gifted candidates but for those with a taste for mathematics. “If you are averse to numbers, you will have a hard time in this career as there’s a lot of mathematical concepts and crunching of numbers.”
He comes to the interview carrying a bag full of exam sheets – and says marking is the least attractive part of this career that is dear to him. Aside from growing young minds, he contributes to the sector using the experience he has amassed in over 10 years in the insurance, pension and banking industries. He was recently appointed the chairperson of The Actuaries Society of Kenya (TASK) where he previously served as a council member. If you meet him along the streets of Strathmore, and you are still wondering why your car insurance premium is bound to go up, he’s the man to have that conversation with.
Why academia when every other actuary is in the corporate world?
Teaching is a passion. Teaching has been in the family; my late mother was a teacher and I have always found myself tutoring my fellow students as I went through high school and university. It’s something that comes naturally to me.
I also attribute my being here to Dr. John Olukuru, Head of Data Science and Analytics, who, in the early part of the decade, took notice of the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) sponsorship for actuarial master’s students in the UK. He saw in them a pool of lecturers for undergraduate students in the Institute of Mathematical Sciences. So, he reached out to a couple of us and I’ve stayed. I’ve been in this institution since 2013, initially on a part-time basis, and full time since 2018.
That said, I’ve also been in consultancy since I left industry in 2018. I am currently a Director at Lux Actuaries and Consultants; a global professional services firm targeting the insurance space, and Chief Actuary at Octagon Africa, targeting pension sector clientele.
Becoming an actuary is no mean feat. How was your journey?
We are a small group of qualified professionals with hundreds others on their qualification journey. Kenya has the second highest number of qualified fellows after South Africa whose number stands at 1,732.
It’s a journey that takes a minimum of four years and one that I encourage students to begin while they are at university, whilst they still have time even though they may not realize it. It becomes tougher to get time to qualify once they are immersed in the corporate world. It’s not a difficult process but it’s lengthy as there are 15 professional exams to take. Treat it as you would exercise – be consistent and you’ll see the results.
I took quite long. I was 32 when I became an actuary, and it took me close to a decade to achieve this milestone having finished my undergraduate studies in my early 20s. Life has different trajectories and I had my personal set of challenges that forced me to slow down a bit.
What’s your vision as the TASK chairperson?
I’ve always been encouraged to take on leadership positions – given that my family felt that I have a good head on my shoulders – so that I could add value to the complex universe we live in. Now here I am as the chair in my mid-thirties, an achievement that has come a bit faster than I had envisioned.
TASK, a simple collective of professionals, is 29 years old and a long-established body under the societies act. One of our visions, which I hope to enable during my tenure, is getting an act of parliament to support our enactment as a professional institution. Firstly, this will strengthen our public participation. Indeed, we have been giving public view on matters in the past, but it is felt that the value of that pronunciation would be taken at more value if we were backed by law. Secondly, the law would also formalize our set up and enable us to have leaders from associated public sector regulators sit on our board. And lastly, it will help with the governance – because we are currently self-governing.
How did you end up working on securing citizenship for stateless persons?
I genuinely believe I am Kenyan, despite having a different skin tone. I belong to a family that came here 120 years ago and thus I have no access to my paternal ancestors in India. I am the 4th generation of my family here. I always laugh when during Christmas I tell people I am already in ushago and will not be travelling ‘home’.
Now picture this: as a generational Kenyan citizen, you are automatically entitled to a national Identity Card (ID) at the age of 18. That ID is the gateway to documentation that are necessary to get on with life. For stateless persons, life is different and normal trajectories become a nightmare: enrolling into school, getting a job, home ownership, getting married…
I thought I could solve this drawback easily for members of the Kenyan-Asian stateless community, as part of my community service, but it took a lot of effort. Highly instrumental alongside me was Malkit Singh Main EBS, a decorated volunteer. It’s something that many NGOs/CBOs have attempted to solve in the last 40 years but never quite cracked it. 60 people achieved Kenyan Citizenship, some as old as 65 years (stateless for 40+ years). Life changing!
It’s a big burden worldwide with about approximately 10 million people in limbo. In Kenya, 18,000 people have no claim to the country. How did they end up here? Take the Shona for instance. Their ancestors came from Zimbabwe into the country as missionaries in the 1960 carrying British passports. When Kenya attained independence in 1963, they had a two-year period in which to register as Kenyan citizens. Many who did not take advantage of this became stateless. They are now finally registered as the 45th ethnic group in Kenya and this was covered widely in the press.
What did the process entail?
I had to put my own credibility on the line and vouch for those I put forward. There is a lot of fear around the issue, so I needed to persuade people to come forward. I received 600+ applicants and siphoned through that to ascertain who was eligible. This involved large data collection, and managing risk by asking the right questions, collecting the right documents and making validity checks as documents can easily be forged. I did this largely through social media and only met those involved on the day they became Citizens. Imagine their excitement later on, on getting a passport and boarding a plane!
What do you do in your free time?
Interesting. I do not have free time. I currently have a lot on my plate! To relax I turn to stand-up comedy. But when I had a bit of time on my hands, which was a couple of years back, I enjoyed new experiences. I was at one time an amateur rapper. I enjoyed the energy that came with getting on stage to perform. Now I’ve not been able to do this as much.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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