Security is about the pursuit of freedom from threat. Private security is the security provided by individuals, companies and other organizations to a client for a fee as opposed to public security provided by the state. Private security also fills the gaps that governments may be unable to fill through security agencies such as the police, intelligence and the military.
Governments may also be clients of private security in areas that they may not be in a position to cover or whenever it may be more convenient to them in terms of time, cost, location and sustainability. The basic features of private security are that its activities, structures and performance are based on free enterprise business principles.
Private security is one of the fastest growing service industries in Kenya. It is well spread particularly around the country covering all the urban centers and also fairly noticeable in the rural areas. This factor provides employment to many people. It is estimated that there are over 3000 private security companies in the country with private guard employees numbering about 200,000; however, it is difficult to authenticate this figure due to the fact that most private security companies are registered as ordinary businesses.
Provision of adequate security in Kenya as in many African countries remains a major challenge with official policing; (encompassing public) security plagued by human rights abuses, corruption, political influence and general ineffectiveness. This together with rampant poverty has invariably led to ever rising cases of insecurity in the country particularly within the urban terrain. As a consequence of this insecurity, there has been mushrooming of a high number of private security companies offering different services especially in the up market estates of the urban areas. Manned guards in the business establishments and premises provide the biggest percentage of the private security companies. Today, the private security industry has become a multibillion industry mainly in the fields of access control, alarm backups, cash in transit, the lock industry and premise security.
Increasingly physical security services are becoming a private rather than public service. The confluence of three interconnected dynamics may have had an impact not only to the Private Security Industry rise, but more importantly, to the overall international acceptance of the PSI. The three are: one, a broad normative shift in international relations towards privatization and the outsourcing of state functions. Secondly, and inextricably bound up with the shift in market forces, is the growing and glaring malfunctioning and weakening of the state with regard to fulfilling its social contract, lastly, the changed and international security context in terms of the end of the cold war and the changing typology of security threats creating new security demands-read terrorism- and therefore new market opportunities.
The states non delivery of rudimentary security is linked to other dimensions of state failures all over the world and broader normative policy shifts. Where once state power was based on military strength, economic performance and economic competitiveness swiftly began to outpace such preoccupations. Over-burdened by the inherent difficulties of state maintenance as well as enormous pressures emanating from the market. States have been forced to trim their administrative, legal, extractive, and coercive apparatuses.
Caught between the necessity of remaining competitive in the international economy and the necessity of providing basic amenities and services to their citizens, states embarked upon the projects of externalization of state functions and services as a means of dealing with their inefficient and handling of market pressures especially from the international financial institutions such as the world bank and the international monetary fund that held that private enterprise is a more cost effective and efficient means of carrying out certain tasks. The world bodies arm twisted states that aimed at adopting austerity packages aimed at privatizing public works and commodifying public goods.
It is evident that the private security industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in Kenya and that it is a significant employer across the country. The industry has a future because global trends indicate that governments are opening up to private services in most sectors.
It is questionable if the profession in Kenya has achieved what could be referred to as professional status considering that being fully professional would only be so if it gains peer recognition from the developed societies and sets up professional accreditation and an internationally regulatory framework for the industry to police its own. Sadly and even more importantly, there is no recognized continuing education in the sector and a total lack of coordinated training, this in turn has led to the recruits for the guard position being mainly retirees from the uniformed services or those who have a shady past and poor work habits. Others are mainly school dropouts who have the muscle for the job, but lack the work ethics and commitment to pursue it as a fully-fledged career.