The PM Communications team interviewed Mr. Paul Simon, Deputy Chairman of Hercules Support Limited and Consultant of International Security, and asked him about the company and the security situation in Uganda and the region. Mr. Simon spoke about the wide technical and knowledge superiority of Hercules when compared to other security companies in the region, and the relatively safe environment Uganda represents, when compared to other countries and regions in the world. I would like to know about your professional background and the reason for your presence in Uganda?
Firstly, I have operated several security companies in the UK and the Middle East. The Uganda Police Force and the Uganda People’s Defense Force invited us to Africa. Initially, we had trained the Uganda Police in Israel, in EOD explosives; the difference between explosive materials, their characteristics and effect. We trained them with working dogs that enabled them to be more efficient in the global war on terror. We had an invitation by the Army and the Police to come to Uganda. We had already been working in Nigeria and Angola for several years, and are still working there. We have also worked in, Mauritius, Madagascar and Kenya.What did you find when you were doing the first analysis about security in Uganda?
We found the security generally safer than other parts of Africa. They have a strong police force, paramilitary, very visible. They have khaki uniforms, automatic machine guns, and therefore any discontent on-mass or wrong doers find it difficult to operate here because of the large police presence. It is safer here than Nigeria or Angola and further the issue of security has many private companies under Police supervision and control. Unfortunately, there are too many security companies. People who had some cursory experience of military service attempt to start security companies.Do you think this country is safer because of their international scope?
Uganda has been part of the regional counter terror initiative for quite a while. The terror attacks here have been less than in other countries. That is because their police force is more
efficient and better trained by international experts, and we feel that also because it is land-locked and it is difficult to fester here as a terrorist group, and also difficult to evade justice.How has your experience been working here?
Competitor security companies were not very professional. We have raised the bar and introduced a training academy. We are training them right from the start. Other security companies train them in their backyard. We train them in every discipline, including patriotism, introduction to security concept, National Security (who should be entrusted), Role of a Citizen in Maintaining security, Community Policing, Anti-Corruption and Bribery, Counter Terrorism, Self Defense, Weaponry, Advanced first Aid, fire and safety drill, communication skills and reporting (Radio procedures) and global disciplines of security.
We are an investor in people and believe everybody has human rights. The trainees are well fed, we give the cadets human dignity: a bed, a mattress, and a locker. Most other companies put many people on the floor in small rooms the size of a garage. We really set up a world-class academy. Our management consists of about 40 people, and 80% are local people. We have specific guards working as security officers in more than 100 locations.How have you been building your reputation?
Most security companies target a mass market. We train people to a higher level, and are working with high profile locations as the Bank of Uganda. The commissions that we secure were achieved in competition. We have a profoundly better product and we were chosen well above other companies. Some of those companies were more than 20 years old, but still adopt the same old guarding system (which is someone who opens a door when you get home “Askari guards”). What happens inevitably is that people come to the gate and the guards let people in without inquiry. Can you elaborate more in your portfolio services?
We work with the Uganda Police Force, and have signed a 6 year memorandum of understanding ‘a partnership’ to modernize the Police in certain areas: tourism Police, aviation Police, EOD bomb disposal, counter terror, and canine Police.
Our services are everything from man guarding to covert work, from access control, to cameras. These cameras and systems we install are not average cameras you would install at home; they are sophisticated systems of security with an alarm so, if there is an incident, we
can send a quick response force (QRF). You can also monitor what goes on in your office or site on the Internet. We have not only high tech, but also professional trainers from overseas to give the Ugandan people a ‘first world’ experience. We brought people from Britain, Italy, Germany and Israel. They have high benchmarks and are very good at the game. They are able to teach the Ugandans the highest level of skills.How long do you plan to be in Uganda, and where are you going to place security once you leave?
Our aim is to be the number one security company. We are here to stay. We have invested over 2.5 million USD here.
Last week, one CEO of a security company was asked why the guards don’t look at the mirror when they scan the car. He said that if there was a bomb, it would vibrate. They don’t really have a lot of knowledge. Through our joint skill sets, we are teaching them, and educating them in the global reality of security. There are harsh conflicts in this region, and each country have deployed some soldiers to go out to the more difficult areas like Somalia or South Sudan. That creates animosity with the local populations. That is when terrorism is brought across the borders try to disrupt the donor country and send these professionals home. When we interviewed the Minister of Security, he mentioned the importance of regional security. How can this company improve that goal?
We are working in Kenya, Angola, and Nigeria. We have visited Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi; and were welcomed by their institutions, and also by those countries’ regulatory authorities. We didn’t only interact but sold them equipment and services. Hercules is destined to be a major player in the region.You are from the UK. In which areas would you like to see increased cooperation between the UK and Uganda?
Due to colonialism historically, both the government and UK police and the army have cooperated in the region. The British police came here three years ago and trained Ugandans in many aspects of strategic regional policing. Of course, the first world is far advanced in forensic science. There is a course offered by the British in Rwanda, which is a strategic policing course, and many police forces in the region send their senior officers to do a year long course.
We have also offered technical courses. We are currently training Ugandans and Kenyans here in Uganda at our Academy.
Investors look for security. Do you think this country has capitalized the security it has?
Unfortunately, because of terrorism in the region, much money has to be spent on security, so as to enhance it. Uganda is certainly a much safer place for investors. Mining and oil and gas are some areas. So far, terrorist issues haven’t affected these areas of investment.What makes this company different?
All of our directors have an abundance of experience. Therefore, we are able to integrate our skill set and knowledge we acquired in Israel, and implement those here in Uganda. In reality, if you imagine a company with no global knowledge, it doesn’t have the same technology or mindset with a global security understanding. We brought here foreign trainers, that train to a higher level, and which is highly visible it in the field. We targeted the institutions of this country and have so far been successful. What does this company need to be the first?
Hard work, at the moment, we have achieved some of the better work, for NGOs and institutions. If you are a small company with meager resources, you are not relevant. We have resources; we have security companies in the UK, Israel, Jordan, and Bahrain. We are tapping into those resources to get a better platform here.What is your vision for the future?
Within a couple of years, our vision is to be one of the major players here. Which is developing at the moment. Local companies are asking us for help and technology. We have sold equipment to at least 20 of the local 150 or so security companies (which is a huge number). We have given them armory, bullet proof bests, electronic devices. These are things not readily available in the local market. The security is such a serious issue, there is tax exemption for security equipment. Initially, there was resistance, but when they realised we were a superior company, they were desirous to joint-venture with us. One of the biggest players wants to sign a partnership agreement with us. The thing is that some contracts require specific facilities.
Other companies don’t have training schools. We agreed to train their manpower in our Training Academy.As an example for other UK investors, have you been well welcomed?
We were extremely welcomed in many places in Africa. A lot of people look at Uganda and the region as more corrupt than other. This is not true. By and large, people here are tired of corruption and want a cleaner society. Our company motto is “zero tolerance to bribery and corruption”, and our company operates corruption free.How do you perceive initiatives like ours?
It is an excellent idea because there are many untapped resources here, and a lot of money to be made for hard working companies. Foreign investment is something that will bring success if you do it right.What made you come here?
We were invited by government security organs. It is important that companies in the UK have an understanding of what the challenges we have faced, and then be able to overcome them, in those circumstances, investment will be a sound one.At the end of the day we are all human beings and go home to be alone. What is the thing that keeps you awake at night regarding the security of this country?
Because of our own experiences elsewhere in the world, we brought our professionalism here. I can be quite honest, it doesn’t keep me awake. I feel very safe; we do not feel like other countries, where we need to be armed the whole time. You can stay in a very nice hotel, and walk from that hotel to another without being bothered by kidnappers or criminals. What would be your final message to the audience of the Daily Telegraph, the investors in the summit, and the more than 2 million readers in our website?
I think you should come and see for yourself. People in Uganda are friendly, and open to improvement and modernization mostly, new ideas, and challenges. If you leave the cities and go into the countryside, you will find hospitable and welcoming people.Could you send three messages to three persons: to the president, the internal affairs ministry, and the minister of security?
My message for the Minister of Security is: there are many challenges ahead, because of the issues in the region. You need to continue the very good work you are doing.
For the Minister of Internal Affairs: you have a good skillset you acquired when you were the head of the army, and you will be able to use that skillset to clean up the Ministry.
And my message to the president is: you have done a great job through the years, so continue to do that good work; continue to look for resources and investment from overseas, teach the Nation to “save” and continue to encourage investors to have a stake in this country, because it is a wealthy country with a friendly nation.