Do private security companies (PSCs) help or hinder development in Africa? This research by the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC) suggests that PSCs can contribute to improving the security situation in African societies and promote economic development. However, there must be enforceable regulation and private security shouldn’t further damage social cohesion by becoming a commodity that only the wealthy can afford. Without access to security for all members of society development will be illusory.
There are three distinct categories of company that offer private security services. PSCs offer both armed and unarmed private security services to the domestic market. International PSCs, with offices in several countries, offer premium security services, which include armed guarding of embassies, oil fields and pipelines, mines and critical infrastructure. These companies also protect politicians and offer convoy protection services. Private military companies (PMCs) offer support services to the armed forces of either their own or a foreign country. As far as legal, regulatory and standards-setting issues are concerned, it is hard to distinguish between PSCs and PMCs although PSCs would not offer combat services to any client.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the regulatory challenges for the industry in sub- Saharan Africa. Problems include:
- a pervasive sense of insecurity;
- a low level of trust in public security forces;
- general poverty and the exploitation of security guards through long working hours and low salaries, thereby making them prone to involvement in criminal activity; and
- differing socio-economic circumstances, political situations and strategic challenges.
Any regulatory framework has to address national characteristics as well as the trans-national nature of the private security industry simultaneously.
- Governments have to develop and enforce effective regulation for their national private security sector in order for the industry to contribute to the creation of a secure and stable environment.
- Self-regulation can be a stepping stone to legislation to which all companies will have to submit. Regulation should be addressed alongside a broader set of issues, such as security sector reform and strategies for development.
- A further level of regulation should be the regional one, combining the statutory or self-regulatory schemes of several countries.
- International legislation would enable the cooperation of the law-enforcement and judiciary bodies of several countries, in case of an offence under any national regulation or International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
- The ongoing joint initiative by the Swiss government to promote respect for IHL and human rights law among PSCs provides the foundation for an international code of conduct.
- It is essential to define the commercial entities that are to be subject to regulation and control. The services the companies are offering also have to be well understood and classified.