28 August 2020

Post-lockdown recovery of private security business

SGA security guard Ishmael Mogire uses an automatic refillable hand sanitiser as a preventive measure from coronavirus infections. It allows for minimal contact with other users and surfaces.

Sector is on the bouncing back following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in E Africa

In Summary

• With low or no activity, many did not require private security services, but that has changed

• SGA Security has fully resumed services across all sectors, albeit with precautions

The easing of lockdown and curfew measures by governments in East Africa has breathed some life into business sectors that almost ground to a halt since the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions were put into place in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. One of those sectors is the private security industry.

In Kenya, the private security sector is one of the biggest employers in the country, employing an estimated 700,000 people, who serve more than 2,000 firms and many more private homes across the nation.

SGA security chief executive Julius Delahaije says the pandemic made some of their customers in Kenya and Uganda close down operations, following the curfew and lockdown imposed between March and June. Although not as badly affected as Kenya and Uganda, private security companies in Tanzania also witnessed a slowdown in business. 

 “Our clients in the tourism and hospitality sector were hard hit by the pandemic, forcing them to close down their businesses. With low or no activity, they did not require private security services, hence hurting our business prospects,” Delahaije said.

In Uganda, SGA’s rife courier business, which had been recording month-on-month growth, suffered a big hit during the three months of lockdown, with a 100 per cent downtime as only essential food and medicine courier services were allowed to operate.

“We usually conduct cash-in-transit management, but with Covid-19 and the introduction of a cashless transfer system, business was relatively low. Some bank branches that we serve also closed down, hurting our deployment of staff and guarding services,” he said.

Ironically, the lockdowns and travel restrictions led to an increase of criminal activities that would ordinarily require the beefing up of security across the board.

Since the partial opening of Kenya's economy on July 6, SGA Security has bounced back to full service delivery across all sectors, albeit on a ‘new normal’ arrangement, where their staff regularly use sanitisers, maintain social distance and wear masks all the time they are on duty. Technicians at their 24-hour control room also have to work in alternate shifts to minimise contact.

Delahaije, who boasts of over two decades' experience in cyber security, said Kenya must promote adoption of technology-based security solutions to reduce physical interactions at entry points, limit the number of people with banking halls as well as malls and enable digital monitoring of social distancing.

“We have access control digital devices that automatically open doors, thermal cameras and intelligent cameras that can alert you in the instance people fail to maintain accepted social distancing as recommended in public spaces, such as supermarkets, malls and banks,” he said.

The CEO said companies must also adopt use of face recognition apps, biometrics, and CCTV cameras within premises, which reduce use of staff for various roles.

“The digital future is here and all must adopt technology for various uses, where online platforms will be used for operational processes to reduce use of papers and human interactions,” Delahaije concluded.