Private security providers on the African continent

Researchers: Mats Utas and Paul Higate (University of Bristol)

While interest in Private Security Providers (PSPs) from scholars and practitioners has grown apace in recent years, the continent of Africa has yet to receive sustained and in-depth attention. This is surprising given the growing prevalence of PSPs on the continent alongside their sometimes problematic impact on the wider security landscape. Our interest in this project is to explore the full spectra of PSPs currently active on the continent. We thus look at local vigilante groups, global mercenaries, internationally registered security firms, from both informal and formal perspectives of the security scene. We focus on PSPs around REC and AU peacekeeping missions as well as “secondary” PSPs, i.e. providers of logistics and training rather than military staff.

Questions that are addressed include but are by no means limited to the following:

  • What kinds of interests are being secured? Do they pertain mainly to resources such as mineral extraction, or to the use of individual services such as Close Protection?
  • How far do PSPs provide armed services and does this kind of provision present particular problems?
  • Who are the main PSP actors? Are they principally indigenous actors, or do they originate from outside of the continent? 
  • What kinds of impact do PSPs have on local populations and how are they perceived by them more widely?
  • How do PSPs shape the immediate social, cultural and political economic context within which they work?
  • How far do PSPs have a gendered impact on their host communities?
  • How far are PSPs regulated and by what authority? Do they practice Corporate Social Responsibility and enforce Codes of Conduct?
  • Who are those working for PSPs? What are their backgrounds and how far do these influence the way they approach their professional practice?

The project is jointly organized with Global Center on Conflict, Security and Development/World Bank and the University of Bristol. A workshop is organized in Nairobi, December 9-10, 2013.

Crime prevention
Mats Utas
Paul Higate
Privare sector
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