Swiss-based Zurich Financial Services Group has entered into a partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, for the implementation of Zurich's new cross-regional microinsurance initiative.

The initiative aims to expand insurance coverage to disadvantaged sectors of the population in countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. As a result, Zurich hopes to promote basic risk management principles and help to reduce poverty.

Zurich has been one of the first insurance groups to move into these emerging markets, offering its services to low-income customers in Latin America. The new microinsurance initiative, however, represents the first concerted effort across different regions within the group, focused on the under-privileged population segment.

Through collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), whose primary task is to alleviate poverty, will provide technical expertise and educate local communities.

The microinsurance initiative anticipates the implementation of a series of projects in up to four countries during the first three years. In 2007, a pilot project will be launched in South Africa.