SEATTLE, Washington — The physical security industry is focused on the production of goods and services designed to protect information, personnel and property. In other words, physical security companies specialize in the sale of security cameras, radar, motion sensors and physical checkpoint infrastructure. They even provide services such as armed bodyguards for high profile individuals. Physical security in Africa has seen fairly recent high-tech developments. The industry is often considered a wise business investment for corporations exposed to high levels of risk, danger or competition. Currently, West African businesses face a multitude of challenges to their physical and economic security. For example, they may face problems with piracy, terrorism, executive kidnappings and disruption of supply chains.
Piracy Affects Shipping
The Gulf of Guinea cradled by West Africa is a particular hotspot for incidents of piracy. As of July 2020, there have been 98 incidents of armed piracy and robbery, up from 78 incidents in 2019. Along with this spike in piracy, pirates have taken 77 seafarers hostage in the first half of 2020 alone, accounting for more than 90% of maritime kidnappings this year.
Thus, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea poses significant stress to already overworked and overstressed vessel workers. International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Director Michael Howlett states that “without an appropriate and proportionate deterrent, pirates and robbers will get more ruthless.” He also recognizes that this lack of security poses an “increasing risk to seafarers”.
According to the global security firm Constellis, the economic impact of kidnappings and piracy off the Coast of Guinea alone average $771 million every year. This is a significant risk factor for the finances and supply chains of businesses dependent on shipping. Additionally, the increased economic risk pairs all too well with a lack of job security. This can be due to budget cuts after unexpected losses or bodily harm incurred by at-risk sailors.
Fortunately, heightened maritime security can deter piracy. The IMB reports that the pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are trolling “further out to sea after patrols closer to shore were increased.” Therefore, expanding security further could have similar outcomes, ideally lowering shipping risks and diminishing rates of piracy and kidnapping.
Terrorism and Supply Chains
Unfortunately, kidnappings do not only happen to seafaring vessels. In West Africa, those traveling on narrow land routes through unsafe territories, like in northern Nigeria, can face kidnappings. Militant terrorist organization Boko Haram, while experiencing diminished regional influence, is still a threat when it comes to banditry, cargo theft and executive kidnappings in northern Nigeria.
Due to these security risks facing land transport, it has become imperative to find a way for multinational businesses to be able to transport cargo safely and reliably between West African nations. Protecting this supply chain is vital for promoting corporate security and boosting regional economic development. One company called Kobo 360 started operating as a logistics company and rental service for long haul land freight operations in order to secure reliable supply chains for businesses. The company currently oversees a fleet of 10,000 trucks and drivers. It uses thousands of small and midsized enterprises and has moved over 5000 Mkg of cargo since its inception. Kobo360 currently operates in Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya. Furthermore, it has plans to move into ten new countries in 2020.
Importance of Physical Security
Physical security in Africa exists to help ensure the material safety of employees and businesses. These measures often lead to greater job security and economic efficiency due to the protection against banditry and piracy.
Unfortunately, extreme poverty plagues West Africa. One 2018 report showed that Nigeria had roughly 83 million people living in extreme poverty. Poverty often leads to greater drug use, crime and terrorism. Groups such as Boko Haram recruit those in extreme poverty with the promise of better livelihoods within the caliphate. The issues caused by poverty lead to less materially secure environments, which then lead to a greater need for security services. Physical security in Africa helps to create a more economically secure region. They aid businesses in gaining investments, decrease the regional risk of danger and lay the foundations for a more economically prosperous society in hopes of alleviating local and regional poverty.
– Ian Hawthorne