The Private Security Regulation Act 2016 sought to bring sanity into an industry that had been ignored for years.
The vetting of about 2,000 firms following the enactment of the law exposed many challenges in the profession.
According to the Kenya Private Security Regulatory Authority (KPSRA), only 10 per cent of firms had met the minimum threshold set by the government. This is despite its enormous size. By 2019, about 1,000 firms employed over 500,000 people, with an estimated annual turnover of over Sh300 billion.
Because of the waning ability by the state to provide the overwhelming protection demanded by all citizens through the police, who also provide a wide-range of other crucial services, despite their low numbers, Kenyans have resorted to private firms and vigilante groups to bridge the gap by providing their own security.
This has seen the private sector security emerge as one of the fastest growing service industries in Kenya in recent years.
Usalama Reforms Forum
A baseline study on the industry carried out by the Usalama Reforms Forum in 2019 revealed that the demand of private security services is highest in cities. About 53 per cent of the demand was in Nairobi, 23 per cent in Mombasa and 10 per cent in Kisumu.
The Task Force on Police reforms led by Retired Justice Philip Ransley, in 2009, noted that private security is a significant player in Kenya’s security sector and that it contributes to policing in vital broadly defined areas.
Therefore, the desire by the government to create a regulatory framework and a policy regime that acknowledges the role of technology, training, recruitment and welfare of the private guards is a significant milestone in seeking to complement its role in providing security service by seeking support from a competent private sector.
Competition is high
Today, multinational firms control a large share of the market, offering comparatively higher service standards than the smaller, locally registered companies.
Competition is high among these local firms, which has compromised standards due to lack or low level of professionalism in the industry’s management.
With a sound policy in place, the government will be able to offer incentives and other support services to help local security firms, which are equally important, to gain a strong footing to meet professional standards, critical being remuneration of guards as stipulated in labour laws, and ability to use modern techniques.
In the same way, the state will get rid of quacks who are a threat to our security.
As the government seeks to bring order in the security sector, it must do so in a participatory approach and address the players’ grievances on several areas, key being the compliance period.
Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi