If you live in a gated community, how much do you contribute to the salary of that man or woman who opens the gate? And as you walk into a bank or a business premise, there is that person who smiles at you as they usher you in. Most probably they are hired by a private security firm.
Private security firms have more than 700,000 guards across the country. And now, the government, some security firms and the guards themselves cannot agree on the way forward, ahead of plans to arm private guards.
Picture this, in 2003 when Joseph Nyaga joined a top security company as a night guard posted to a pharmacy store in Nairobi, he assumed it was the start of a thriving career.
Fifteen years down the line, nothing much has changed. His starting salary of Sh7,000 has barely increased. His employer does not offer any insurance cover or any added benefits. Leave or off days are unheard of.
Mr Nyaga is now forced to work as a boda boda rider during the day and a guard at night to support his family of five children. His situation is not an isolated case. But things could be looking up, with the Ministry of Interior coming up with a new set of standards, regulations and practices, which the security firms must comply with by April next year. They are contained in the new training curriculum and guidelines for private security guards.
Among the reforms will be a minimum wage of Sh15,146, a 15 per cent housing allowance, extra hours’ remuneration of about Sh8,700 and a responsibility allowance, bringing the total pay to about Sh25,000.
There is also a proposition for qualified private security officers manning key installations to carry firearms. “The reforms will double employment for private security guards from 700,000 guards to about 1.5 million,” said Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.
Further, the names of vetted private security guards will be contained in a national security database.
This will help integrate private security with national security organs.
The new training curriculum will help watchmen who act as the first line of defence during attacks at homes, big corporations and government institutions acquire skills in counter-terrorism and handling security equipment, foot drills, and standardised security procedures as defined by the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA).
Mr Joseph Kamore from the National Private Security Workers Union, says the new reforms will also offer an opportunity for retired officers to land jobs.
Conflict management, personal presentation, and customer relations skills will also be offered in line with national government efforts to professionalise the private security industry.