In Africa, private security is on the rise. Many international actors play a role with States, companies or NGOs.
Without security, there is no economic growth in Africa. Companies, international institutions and NGOs cannot make a long-term commitment to a country and invest in infrastructure projects or educational programs without guarantees for people and property.
Unfortunately, in a large number of countries on the African continent, the action of the police is more related to exaction, racketeering and trafficking of all kinds in connection with organized crime than to the protection of citizens.
This permanent insecurity for populations and economic actors has only increased with the emergence of Islamist terrorism and the explosion of the kidnapping business.
In this chaotic landscape, a few large private security companies have positioned themselves as key players in the African landscape. A landscape that looks like the Far West, as the competition is fierce between the large crocodiles of the safe backwater.
From Ouagadougou to Bamako, via N'Djamena
We meet them all over the continent, from Ouagadougou to N'Djamena, via Khartoum, Bamako, Maputo, or Kenyatta. They land in a private jet for an express visit, rush directly to the presidential palaces and rarely linger more than 48 hours in the country before heading to another capital. True buccaneers of modern times, they fight for colossal market shares. Their objective, always the same: to gain the confidence of the Head of State, their point of entry. This condition once satisfied, sometimes by means of arguments that morality and public finances condemn, the State rolls out the red carpet for them. The rest is just a formality. Government contracts are often worth a de facto recommendation, when it is not a real “incentive” to locally established companies.
For ethical reasons, the major private security groups, those listed on the stock exchange, have gradually abandoned Africa. There is no question for them of being closely or remotely associated with the actions of the Wagner group, founded by the Russian Evgueni Prigojine and very active in the Central African Republic and Mali. In these two countries, Wagner would have been guilty, according to the United Nations (UN), of "indiscriminate murders" and acts of violence against civilians, the economic model of the Wagner organization being based on the forced appropriation of concessions of any kind in exchange for providing “security” and protection for local heads of state. A model reminiscent of the dark hours of post-USSR perestroika where you became the owner of a factory by entering by force, accompanied by big guys and where you forced the director to sign the papers necessary for the transmission of the heritage. .
Other actors at least as sulphurous, such as the American Erik Prince, founder of the ex-Blackwater, are fighting to pocket the contracts alongside local companies, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Libya, … Erik Prince who was until now in “war for Chinese interests in Africa” as announced in the newspaper Le Monde, with his associates of the Hong Kong group, Frontier Service Group, a subsidiary of the giant CITIC, is now playing it alone and trying to promote the comprehensive privatization of the security and defense sector with African governments. He often receives an attentive ear even if the mistrust of heads of state and the lack of budget has so far hampered his ambitions to privatize local armies... Quoted in a United Nations report on alleged commando operations of killers in Libya on behalf of Marshal Haftar, he has been discreet for several months, warm and cozy on his ranch in Wyoming, despite thunderous announcements on social networks about his ability to avoid conflict by mobilization of a fleet of armed private planes… to be continued.
But Russians and Americans are no longer the only ones navigating the murky waters of private security in Africa. They must now count on competition from a newcomer, the Frenchman Alexandre Benalla, a former project manager for the President of the French Republic who hit the headlines in 2018. The discreet subsidiary of his company COMYA Group based in the United Kingdom United, Comya Defense Services Ltd, is very active on the continent. Despite the few public denials following his trips to Chad and Congo-Brazzaville in 2018, Benalla positions himself as a trusted interlocutor and shadow adviser, relying on his knowledge of the continent and his "friendship" with a few of the most influential Heads of State to garner assignments and contracts from private players in the field of "oil and gas" and mining. A source close to a Western intelligence service confided to us that he was undoubtedly one of the best informed of palace secrets, very often the first to be warned of an impending coup. And if it claims a more “soft” approach to the market than that of its major Russian and American “competitors”, it is nonetheless one of theirs. And the young crocodile Benalla intends to resist the sharp teeth of its competitors to take its place on the "market".