The changing face of security provision: commercial security providers and the privatisation of security

This Think Piece prepared by Alan Bryden for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa explores the issue of private security. The paper highlights a lack of knowledge or understanding on the scale, activities, and implications of the private security industry in Africa. Private security provision, and the lack of knowledge on the topic, can affect Security Sector Reform (SSR) in a variety of ways: the state has an incomplete view of the actors providing security on the national territory, there is a blurring of roles and responsibilities between public and private security, private security can result in greater security for some while leaving insecurity to others, and security privatisation remains somewhat neglected in programmatic responses.

The author proposes some entry points to engage with private security and better understand the related issues. Fostering African research capabilities can further the development of an evidence base to increase the visibility of the issue, while developing the legal and policy frameworks on oversight and accountability is a step to control the growth and evolution of the private security sector. Furthermore, the author argues for supporting capacity building of security sector management and oversight bodies, for empowering civil society, and leveraging international initiatives to create momentum for change.