Exclusive: Security training in Africa
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Angus Darroch-Warren of Linx International Group discusses the rising demand for security training across Africa.
According to the United Nations, there are 54 countries that make up the continent of Africa. From a training perspective, there are 54 markets, each of which has its own idiosyncrasies and which make Africa such a vibrant and challenging place in which to work.
COVID-19 has changed how we live, work and train and it remains to be seen how extensive the impact will be across Africa as countries manage the outbreak.
The demand for security training is high in Africa, indeed education in general is a prized commodity and a pathway to personal and family development. It never ceases to amaze me when I travel to see schools in rural and urban areas that have classrooms filled with students dressed in carefully cleaned and ironed uniforms who are anxious to learn, to explore new topics and who have a thirst for learning and a desire to be a nurse, doctor, attorney, teacher or other professional.
The need for security
Security is a fundamental need and fits into the traditional hierarchy of need as posited by Maslow, however, security is a wide-ranging term and one that encompasses conflict between nations, regional or local issues, crime, food supply and supply chains more generally. When it comes to training security professionals, the question is always ‘why do you want the training?’ and often (and this is a global issue) people may not know what they need or what is available to them.
When I discuss with delegates as to why they are on the course, often it is ‘because I was told to be here’, and there can be confusion as to why they are on a security related course, albeit they are from HR or compliance. It can be a challenge, but by the end of the course it is always positive to see how they have benefitted from understanding how security fits into the organisation and how it is relevant to departments such as operations, HR or compliance.
So, what is in demand? This depends on the specific needs of the organisation and we will have discussed at length the options available based on a training needs analysis. The most popular courses are those that cover the core principles of security risk management and which allow progression from one level to another. So, operational teams will learn about the basics of risk analysis, the selection of physical security measures or how to develop standard operating procedures to make teams more effective and accountable.
Many attendees have come from public sector roles – from the armed services, police or other enforcement body. They may be new to the organisation, or been with it for a number of years, but have not received any formal training in security practice. Leaving the courses, they will understand why and how technologies such as video surveillance are used, or how to select fence types and heights based on adversary path analysis. They have the knowledge and are always keen to put it into practice. Depending on the organisation, more specialised courses are often required, for example corporate investigations or crisis management and business continuity (a definite uplift in enquiries due to the pandemic).
Attending a classroom course, whether in the home country or in an overseas location, brings an element of kudos to the individual, their organisation is investing in their development to make them a more effective professional.
The pandemic has caused there to be a huge outpouring of online and distance learning and it is difficult to sieve through courses and pick what you need. Traditionally the African market favours classroom-based learning and this allows for discussions and problem solving as a group – scenario based learning is always highlighted as a key benefit. Being able to resolve set tasks brings the theory to life and enables the tutor to stretch the minds of the learners and get them to move away from the out-moded thought of security being ‘gates, guards and guns’. It is really enjoyable being on the learning journey with the groups.
This is not to say that online and distance learning does not have its place. Numbers of learners form Africa engaging with eLearning and distance learning increase year by year with distance learning packages that lead to internationally recognised, accredited qualifications in demand. Distance learning and eLearning are financially attractive for organisations, but there can be some drawbacks.
On a purely technical side, online learning requires access to a stable internet connection, guaranteed electricity supply, computers and peripherals and the knowledge of how to operate the systems. This is not always the case and can put off individuals looking to learn via the internet.
Given the type of constraints above, accessing bite size courses is an inexpensive way to focus on specific learning and knowledge development, without having to commit to a lengthy period and also mitigates the issues highlighted.
We also have to consider the potential language barriers that exist, English is not the first language therefore support needs to be provided by accessible tutors who can provide explanations and advice. Delivering face to face courses in languages such as French in francophone West Africa or the Maghreb, makes training more accessible and from an online perspective, bite size courses available in other languages are proving very popular.
Courses that provide internationally recognised qualifications are seen as providing a pathway to personal development and separating the individual from others who may be seeking the same promotion or job opportunity. Often, I am told that having a certificate from an accredited institution is ‘worth its weight in gold’ and security practitioners truly value opportunities to develop themselves.
So, training is a valued commodity for the security practitioner across the continent and this contributes to the gradual professionalisation of the sector. Bona fide training, based on tried and tested theories, linked with up to date information on technologies and practices, will ensure that ‘security’ is no longer stigmatised as a lowly paid, second career option. The battle, as security professionals face across the globe, is to source and retain the financial support for personal and team development. In the ‘new normal’ that will develop post-pandemic, this will be a challenge.
This article was published in the June 2020 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital copy on the link here.