Leveraging Political Risk Insurance


In the ever-evolving global business environment, political risk insurance (PRI) has emerged as a critical tool for mitigating risks associated with investing in politically volatile regions. Political risks, including expropriation, political violence, and currency inconvertibility, can significantly impact the stability and profitability of foreign investments. This article explores the importance of political risk insurance, the types of risks it covers, the benefits it offers, and the strategies for effectively leveraging PRI to safeguard investments.

Understanding Political Risk Insurance

Definition and Purpose

Political risk insurance is a type of insurance designed to protect investors, lenders, and businesses against losses arising from political events. It serves as a risk management tool that helps mitigate the financial impact of adverse political actions or instability in a host country (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency [MIGA], 2020). The primary purpose of PRI is to provide a safety net for investors, enabling them to pursue opportunities in high-risk environments with greater confidence.

Types of Political Risks Covered
  1. Expropriation: Expropriation refers to the risk of a host government seizing or nationalizing private assets without adequate compensation. This can include direct expropriation, where the government takes over the assets, and indirect expropriation, where regulatory changes effectively strip the investor of control and benefits (Kobrin, 1984).
  2. Political Violence: Political violence encompasses risks arising from acts of war, civil disturbance, terrorism, and other forms of violent conflict. Such events can lead to physical damage to property, loss of revenue, and business interruptions (Collier & Hoeffler, 2004).
  3. Currency Inconvertibility and Transfer Restrictions: This risk involves the inability to convert local currency into foreign currency or transfer funds out of the host country due to government-imposed restrictions. This can hinder the repatriation of profits and repayment of loans (International Monetary Fund [IMF], 2020).
  4. Breach of Contract: Breach of contract risk occurs when a host government or state-owned entity fails to honor its contractual obligations. This can include reneging on agreements related to concessions, licenses, or other business contracts (Jensen, 2008).
  5. Arbitration Award Default: This risk covers situations where a host government fails to comply with an arbitration award in favor of the investor. It provides coverage for losses arising from the non-enforcement of international arbitration decisions (MIGA, 2020).

Importance of Political Risk Insurance

Facilitating Foreign Investment

Political risk insurance plays a crucial role in facilitating foreign direct investment (FDI) by providing a safety net against political uncertainties. It enables investors to venture into emerging and frontier markets that offer high growth potential but are perceived as politically risky (MIGA, 2020). By mitigating political risks, PRI helps attract foreign capital, spurring economic development in host countries.

Enhancing Access to Finance

PRI can enhance access to finance for businesses operating in high-risk regions. Lenders and financial institutions are more willing to provide funding when investments are backed by political risk insurance, as it reduces the risk of default due to political events. This can lower the cost of capital and improve the terms of financing (World Bank, 2020).

Protecting Investment Returns

Investing in politically volatile regions can yield high returns, but it also involves significant risks. Political risk insurance helps protect investment returns by safeguarding against losses from political actions. This ensures that investors can achieve their financial objectives even in the face of political instability (Bremmer, 2005).

Promoting Global Trade and Economic Stability

By mitigating political risks, PRI promotes global trade and economic stability. It encourages cross-border investments, facilitates international business transactions, and supports the development of resilient global supply chains. This contributes to economic growth and stability in both home and host countries (World Economic Forum [WEF], 2020).

Strategies for Leveraging Political Risk Insurance

Comprehensive Risk Assessment
  1. Political Risk Analysis: Conducting a thorough political risk analysis is the first step in leveraging PRI effectively. This involves assessing the political environment, identifying potential risks, and evaluating their impact on investment. Political risk analysis helps investors understand the specific risks they face and determine the appropriate level of coverage needed (Bremmer, 2005).
  2. Country Risk Assessment: A detailed country risk assessment provides insights into the political, economic, and social dynamics of the host country. It includes evaluating factors such as political stability, regulatory environment, governance quality, and history of political violence. Country risk assessment informs the decision-making process and helps tailor the PRI coverage to the specific context (Jensen, 2008).
Selecting the Right Insurance Provider
  1. Multilateral Agencies: Multilateral agencies, such as the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), offer political risk insurance to support investments in developing countries. These agencies provide coverage for a wide range of political risks and have a strong track record of supporting foreign investments (MIGA, 2020).
  2. Private Insurers: Private insurance companies also offer political risk insurance, often providing customized solutions tailored to specific industries and investment types. Private insurers can offer competitive terms and flexible coverage options, making them a viable option for many investors (Marsh, 2020).
  3. Export Credit Agencies: Export credit agencies (ECAs) provide political risk insurance to support exports and foreign investments from their home countries. ECAs, such as the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) and the UK Export Finance (UKEF), play a critical role in facilitating international trade by offering PRI to exporters and investors (EXIM, 2020).
Tailoring Coverage to Investment Needs
  1. Customized Coverage: Tailoring PRI coverage to the specific needs of the investment is essential for maximizing its effectiveness. Investors should work closely with insurance providers to design coverage that addresses the unique risks associated with their projects. This may involve selecting specific risk categories, setting appropriate coverage limits, and choosing relevant policy terms (MIGA, 2020).
  2. Layered Insurance Structures: Implementing layered insurance structures, where coverage is obtained from multiple providers, can enhance risk protection. This approach distributes the risk across several insurers, reducing the likelihood of a single insurer bearing the entire burden of a loss event (Marsh, 2020).
Integrating PRI into Risk Management Strategy
  1. Comprehensive Risk Management: Integrating political risk insurance into a broader risk management strategy is crucial for comprehensive protection. This involves coordinating PRI with other risk mitigation measures, such as operational flexibility, local partnerships, and robust compliance programs (Ghemawat, 2003).
  2. Continuous Monitoring and Adjustment: Political risks are dynamic and can evolve over time. Continuous monitoring of the political environment and regular reassessment of the risk profile are essential for maintaining effective coverage. Investors should adjust their PRI policies as needed to ensure they remain aligned with the changing risk landscape (Bremmer, 2005).
Leveraging Insurance for Strategic Advantage
  1. Negotiating Better Terms: Having political risk insurance can strengthen an investor’s negotiating position with local governments and partners. It signals a commitment to risk management and demonstrates financial stability, which can lead to more favorable terms and conditions in contracts and agreements (MIGA, 2020).
  2. Accessing New Markets: PRI enables investors to access new and emerging markets that would otherwise be deemed too risky. By mitigating political risks, investors can capitalize on high-growth opportunities in regions with untapped potential (World Bank, 2020).
Case Studies
  1. Energy Sector Investment in Nigeria: An international energy company used political risk insurance to protect its investment in a large-scale oil and gas project in Nigeria. The coverage included risks of expropriation, political violence, and currency inconvertibility. When militant attacks disrupted operations, the insurance policy covered the financial losses and enabled the company to continue its activities with minimal impact (Marsh, 2020).
  2. Infrastructure Project in Kenya: A multinational construction firm secured political risk insurance for a major infrastructure project in Kenya. The policy covered risks of breach of contract and expropriation. When regulatory changes threatened to halt the project, the PRI provider facilitated negotiations with the Kenyan government, ensuring the project’s completion and protecting the investor’s interests (MIGA, 2020).
  3. Agricultural Investment in Mozambique: An agricultural company invested in a large-scale farming operation in Mozambique and obtained political risk insurance to cover risks of political violence and currency inconvertibility. During a period of political unrest, the insurance policy provided compensation for the losses incurred, allowing the company to maintain its operations and support local communities (World Bank, 2020).

Challenges and Considerations

Premium Costs and Affordability
  1. Cost-Benefit Analysis: While political risk insurance offers valuable protection, the premium costs can be significant. Investors need to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the potential benefits of PRI justify the expense. This involves comparing the premium costs with the potential financial impact of political risks (MIGA, 2020).
  2. Budget Constraints: Smaller businesses and startups may face budget constraints that limit their ability to afford PRI. In such cases, exploring alternative risk mitigation strategies or seeking partial coverage for the most critical risks can be a viable approach (Marsh, 2020).
Coverage Limitations and Exclusions
  1. Policy Exclusions: Political risk insurance policies often have specific exclusions and limitations. It is crucial for investors to thoroughly review the policy terms and understand the scope of coverage, including any exclusions related to certain types of risks or events (Jensen, 2008).
  2. Claim Processing and Dispute Resolution: The process of filing claims and resolving disputes can be complex and time-consuming. Investors should be prepared for the administrative requirements and potential delays in claim settlements. Establishing clear communication channels with the insurance provider can facilitate smoother claim processing (MIGA, 2020).
Evolving Risk Landscape
  1. Dynamic Political Environment: The political environment in many countries is dynamic and subject to rapid changes. Investors need to continuously monitor political developments and reassess their risk profiles to ensure their PRI coverage remains adequate (Bremmer, 2005).
  2. Emerging Risks: New and emerging risks, such as cyber threats and climate change-related disruptions, may not be fully covered by traditional political risk insurance policies. Investors should consider additional coverage options or innovative risk mitigation strategies to address these emerging risks (WEF, 2020).


Political risk insurance is an essential tool for managing the uncertainties associated with investing in politically volatile regions. By providing coverage against risks such as expropriation, political violence, and currency inconvertibility, PRI enables investors to pursue high-growth opportunities with greater confidence. Leveraging PRI effectively involves conducting comprehensive risk assessments, selecting the right insurance providers, tailoring coverage to investment needs, integrating PRI into a broader risk management strategy, and leveraging insurance for strategic advantage. Despite the challenges and considerations, political risk insurance remains a valuable asset for safeguarding investments and promoting global trade and economic stability.


Bremmer, I. (2005). Managing risk in an unstable world. Harvard Business Review, 83(6), 51-60. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2005/06/managing-risk-in-an-unstable-world

Collier, P., & Hoeffler, A. (2004). Greed and grievance in civil war. Oxford Economic Papers, 56(4), 563-595. doi:10.1093/oep/gpf064

EXIM. (2020). Export-Import Bank of the United States: Political Risk Insurance. Retrieved from https://www.exim.gov/what-we-do/political-risk-insurance

Ghemawat, P. (2003). The forgotten strategy. Harvard Business Review, 81(11), 76-84. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2003/11/the-forgotten-strategy

IMF. (2020). World Economic Outlook: A Long and Difficult Ascent. Retrieved from https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/09/30/world-economic-outlook-october-2020

Jensen, N. M. (2008). Nation-States and the Multinational Corporation: A Political Economy of Foreign Direct Investment. Princeton University Press.

Kobrin, S. J. (1984). Expropriation as an attempt to control foreign firms in LDCs: Trends from 1960 to 1979. International Studies Quarterly, 28(3), 329-348. doi:10.2307/2600397

Marsh. (2020). Political Risk Map 2020. Retrieved from https://www.marsh.com/us/campaigns/political-risk-map-2020.html

MIGA. (2020). Political Risk Insurance. Retrieved from https://www.miga.org/political-risk-insurance

WEF. (2020). The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020

World Bank. (2020). Doing Business 2020: Comparing Business Regulation in 190 Economies. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/doing-business

World Economic Forum. (2020). The Future of Jobs Report 2020. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020

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