"The mining industry is a clear target for our strategy in the Katanga region, and we approach the industry with an integrated offer of services including security risk assessment, guarding and K9 services, fleet management, etc."
Can you introduce GardaWorld’s global and African footprint?
OS: GardaWorld is the largest privately-owned security services company in the world, with an annual turnover of around US$4 billion, a total of 120,000 employees, 35,000 clients, and 500 branch offices in 45 countries. In East Africa, GardaWorld operates in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, including the Kivu regions, and we have 40,000 security officers. We have been present in the DRC since 2016, expanding from the east of the country into the southern regions of Haut- Katanga and Lualaba.
Can you detail your operations and strategies across the three key regions you operate in?
OS: Our biggest operation is in the eastern region, where we have 1,500 security officers and branch offices in Beni, Goma, Bukavu and Kalemie. In this part of the country we mostly work with the UN, but also international NGOs. In Kinshasa our biggest contract is with the Belgian Embassy and we want to tap into the other embassies in the city. Moving to the south, we have been developing the Kolwezi and Lubumbashi hubs for the past two years.
WV: GardaWorld has established a presence in the greater Katanga region since September 2020, and today we provide around 200 security officers to clients like MCSC, Trafigura and Impala Terminals, SGS, and two oil distributors: La Société de Réalisation et de Stockage du Tanganyika and Lualaba Oil.
What are the challenges in developing the southern region, which is predominantly mining-focused?
WV: One of the main challenges in Katanga is the unlevelled but fierce competition with more than 200 security companies, many of which do not adhere to international quality standards. GardaWorld is the only company in the DRC which is ISO 270001 accredited. We hold five ISO certifications, for quality assurance (ISO9001), for the environment (ISO14001), specific for private security companies (ISO18778), for health and safety (ISO45001), and we are also certified as a PSC1 company, which is a requirement for working with US companies. Unlike most of our competitors, we offer insurance and medical cover as well as very rigorous training and decent pay rates far superior to those offered by our competition. Without naming and shaming, it suffices to know that our entry-level salaries for security officers are higher than some of those offered by our competitors to senior security officers.
What can GardaWorld offer to the mining industry?
WV: The mining industry is a clear target for our strategy in the Katanga region, and we approach the industry with an integrated offer of services (like security risk assessment, guarding and K9 services, fleet management, etc.) and technology solutions (such as surveillance systems, access control system, intrusion detection system, remote offsite CCTV monitoring, etc.). We propose an integrated solution that goes from security, weekly security reports, risk assessments, the study and installation of technology, and even offering hybrid power stations. As part of our facility management services, we can take care of the maintenance, cleaning and guarding of a facility.
Many security firms will negotiate their quotation on the basis of the largest number of people at the lowest prices, but we deem this approach obsolete. GardaWorld introduces its own tech, including drones, tracking systems, or patrol surveillance, which we combine with the right number of well-trained people for maximum protection and faster intervention. We invest significantly in surveillance and a quick reaction force that can intervene when needed. Also, we liaise with the national security state services, and this close contact allows us to call for support from the army or the police.
How have you observed the security situation evolving in the DRC and what are the main threats that the mining industry is exposed to in the country?
OS: Security in the country is very granular. In the East of the DRC, the country is involved for the last 25 years in an asymmetric war with ever changing conditions and alliances. Neighboring countries play active roles in the conflict. More than 100 rebel groups are known. It is a fertile soil for extremism. In the rest of the country, including Kinshasa and Katanga, the situation is more stable. Though isolated security incidents occur. An increased number of kidnappings for ransom in Kinshasa over the last 12 months is reported. Also, the number of convoy attacks to steal the copper or cobalt transported have been on the rise, the growth in commodity prices incentivizing local banditry.
WV: In the mining regions, the main risk is social, emerging from tensions between miners and artisanal miners digging on private premises. These conflicts can erupt, and we have seen cases of mines being invaded by 1,000 people at once. In such a situation, it is essential to find a proper peaceful solution because force would only escalate tensions. Mining companies and security companies need to work with local communities and local authorities to reduce these risks.
Could you share your objectives for GardaWorld?
OS: Our target is to become the de facto leader in integrated security solutions in the next three years, continue paying our employees fairly, and drive forward our story through technology, specialized personnel, and quality above all.
WV: We are confident that quality will pay off in the long-term, as more clients understand price should not be the only consideration when choosing a security provider.
As Robbie Sinclair said; ”Security is always excessive until it’s not enough.”
We want to help companies find the right balance and never find themselves in this predicament.