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Emergence of new threats spur security sector growth

Wednesday, January 02, 2013
By Moses Michira

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Kenya is projected to add about 15,000 security guards this year owing to rising demand for the personnel amidst increased private sector investment and the emergence of new risks.

The multi-billion shilling sector has also emerged among the top job creators, with several private security firms putting up adverts seeking to recruit hundreds of askaris last month alone.

Industry leaders cite the rising threats to homes, business premises, and social places as the main driver for the trend in the segment, which is estimated to be employing nearly 300,000 individuals.

Tony Sahni, the chairman of the Kenya Security Industry Association (KSIA), says new investments from local and multi-national firms is expected to create the additional positions.

“We project that up to 15,000 positions will be created for askaris owing to the number of new businesses setting up in the country amidst the new security threats,” said Mr Sahni, who is also the managing director of Securex, a security service provider.

Frisking visitors

Among the new threats are those linked to terrorism activity targeting churches, night clubs and even supermarkets, that has been heightened especially in the past year after the Government entered Somalia to pursue militia.

Some businesses are also apprehensive about the political climate and are likely to beef up their security now to avert possible disruptions as the General Election nears, according to Sahni.

It is now common to find security guards at the entrace of virtually all major establishments, frisking visitors to eliminate the possibility of criminals sneaking in dangerous weapons like grenades, which have been used in most recent attacks.

Sahni added that consumers in the sector were now more demanding on the quality of services expected, a factor that has pushed it to institute minimum requirements for potential recruits.

A prospective security guard should communicate in fluent English and Kiswahili, as he said their role is now more complex and demanding than just “opening and closing doors”.

Entry level guards should be paid a minimum monthly salary of Sh16,000, inclusive of allowances and overtime pay, according to the KSIA.

James Omwando, the group chief executive of KK Security a firm that has employed about 9,000 guards, says individual households and new businesses were likely to provide new demand for security guards going forward.

Minimum education requirements for a security guard at KK Security is a Form Four certificate and physical fitness.

Better remuneration

“We have employed hundreds of graduates too as security technicians, who are mostly posted to foreign missions and embassies,” added Omwando, citing that new techologies in security management now demand a much-better educated and trained askari.

Vehicle tracking and Cash-In-transit are among the specialist segments that are emerging in the private security industry that is supporting demand for highly qualified professionals.

He projects that the private security sector will be at par with the more-sought after white collar jobs in offices as the sector embraces professionalism and a better remuneration to boot.

Informal private security firms, however, pose the greatest challenge to the sector’s future, where greedy influential personalities set up small outfits which do not pay their guards according to industry standards, to maximise profitability. The sector has also received a boost from an emerging class of wealthy Kenyans as their personal bodyguards.

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