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“Uganda’s security is good”

Interview - May 20, 2014
Askar Security Services provides security to the United Nations (UN), Civil Aviation (CA), World Food Program (WFP), banking institutions as well as other sectors in Uganda. Managing Director of the company, Ms. Kellen Kayonga talks to United World about how the country’s security environment is helping the country’s investment environment
The President Yoweri Museveni said that security has been a key strength of Uganda in the last decade and one of the engines of its economic prosperity. As an expert on the field and the main representative of the largest private security company in Uganda…How would you assess the state of security in the country?
Uganda’s security is good. It does not have the same amount of problems as other countries in Africa, we have a variety of refugees from other parts of the continent coming to our nation, seeking solace). With God’s grace, we will continue to maintain the peace and public order in Kampala and Uganda’s provinces. 
How are you working together with President Yoweri Museveni to provide good quality security services and ensuring the stability of the region, as Uganda is the land link economy of the East African Community? 
H.E President Museveni has done an excellent job taking security as a major priority in the country. That is why the sector has lived a tremendous growth. We collaborate with Government bodies such as internal affairs, defense, presidency together with the External and Internal Security Organizations (ESO and ISO), the Chieftaincy Military Intelligence (CMI), and private securities groups.
Askar provides security to the United Nations (UN), civil aviation (CA), the World Food Program (WFP), banking institutions, and other sectors. Mostly, we deal with international entities—foreigners who require VIP protection. We have an investigations unit and a training program for security personnel.  
Some of our services are: Cash in transit and cash services, Guard Escort and Transport Services, Event Security Controls, External Security Services…It is important, being able to provide these services…
The two most important things that an investor looks before setting a business in a country is: the level of security and the transparency of its government. How would you assess the overall security of the country in terms of investment? 
Overall security in the country is good. It is good for investment. We have people from oil and gas (O&G) and the mining industry asking for our services, and those are long-term investors that really trust our services and the security that Uganda offers. We offer very good security. Our security personnel are very well trained.

We also provide recruitment services for Ugandans to qualify for to work in missions abroad, our company is unique regarding this matter and has lot of experience with well trained skilled personnel. Askar Security Services is the first company to export its services to Iraq and Afghanistan. We were in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2013. We have been partnering with United States army forces in those missions and everywhere you will hear about the excellent results and achievements that Ugandan officers have done in those missions.

The company has built strong institutional linkage with a contingent team of over 4500 security forces in Iraq. We also partner with the Ugandan Government in charge of entire security development process.
There are 73-registered private securities companies in Uganda and ten other companies have applied for operational licenses from the national licensing committee. In this environment of huge competition…what have been the key factors behind the success of the to company?
We believe in the need to continuously improve our services. That is why we partner with international agencies to leverage on their expertise. 
We hope to set up a Security Academy to help us train people. We will be getting experts from overseas to train people so that we can supply the needed manpower to other entities. 
We are in talks with a security company in the US to help us with the training aspect of our Security Academy. Negotiations are ongoing so we can expand.   
The major security problem of Uganda has been the latent conflict with Lord’s Resistance Army. United States has been bringing assistance and working together with Uganda’s Government in order to combat Lord’s Resistance Army and establish the level of regional security that the further development of East Africa requires to meet its potential. What are your thoughts on your current relations with the US?
We have a very good relation with United States; Joe Biden was visiting our officials in Iraq. Even now, the ones training the guards are the ones guarding the embassies in Africa.  I think this relationship will continue to be good. We usually deal with the American Embassy and the companies giving us work in other countries like Afghanistan. We have former US combatants who are working with us. If you have to chose a country to partner with in terms of security, technology or human capacity building that’s United States.
Are you working with the governments of your neighboring countries?
Yes, we are. We have to work with the governments of the places in which we operate. They are the ones who provide the necessary licenses and certifications. It is important to work as a group (East African Community) as the security of one country depends on the security of its neighbors. 
We understand that you are looking to expand your footprint in Somalia.
At the moment, we are looking to recruit and deploy security personnel to Somalia. However, we will be using Kenyan guards because the place where we are in Somalia would not allow Ugandans there. They prefer Kenyans. They work with Kenyans very well.   
We are working on getting a license from the Somalian government to work there. To get Kenyan guards, we have to partner with the Kenyan security firms linked to the Kenyan government.
What sets Askar apart from the rest?
We have the international experience. We have been using our forces together with American States for so long. We find that we could capitalize on their experience and equipment; so that we can do things better within the country. 
When you talk about our army, US officials train most of them and we follow the manuals of United States. Our relationship with the American government is very good. We collaborate in various areas, from our army to our police, to our communication gadgets. 
How do you motivate your staff to strive for excellence?
They are rewarded based on the quality of their work. If they work well, they get compensated well. They have to be proficient. We provide the tools and the training. We give them the environment they need to thrive. All that they need to do is their job. 
All quality issues will be dealt with as long as we strive to breed proficiency.  
Proficiency is clearly a value that you believe in. 
To do things in a good way is to be proficient. That is the most important thing.

For a company to grow here, it needs special licenses to train an extra 200 people. When you talk about the 10-year process, what is the procedure? How is it conducted here?
It depends on the contracts that you are going to get. For Askar, we have a training ring in Entebbe. We also have a shooting ring. 
Let us say that we need to take 200 guards. We have to be prepared so we train them in phases. That way, we could give our customers guards who are already trained. We are training so many people because so many companies are coming. 
What kind of training programs do you offer to the Ugandan youth?
We mostly train those who did not go far for university—those who are struggling to find good jobs. We give them an opportunity to learn and earn a good living. They go through a skills development program and are absorbed in the company as one of our guards. 
More companies and investors are coming. As the demands of the industry grow, we shall continue to provide them with opportunities for employment and self-betterment. 
What can you tell us about Askar’s CSR programs?
We encourage cooperatives. We work with the community. We give them land to build their houses.
Our boys in Iraq, for instance, had an association. They gather money; buy houses, land, businesses (for the wives not to run so that they can generate tuition for the kids). They did this till their ownership comprised of a vast area. When they came back, they already had homes to live in; some had businesses to finance their upkeep. That is because they worked together, towards a cause. 
Who is your main technology and engineering partner? 
For arms, training and communications, we mainly work with the US. 
I have had the good fortune of meeting US Vice Pres. Joe Biden in Iraq. He struck me as a simple man with no affectations. He only stayed for a few minutes, but from that meeting, I surmised that he was nice.
What should the American audience know about the brave individuals who form the Ugandan security?
They know Askar. We were the first people to train them to go to Iraq (and they have their certificate). Wherever they go, they have to show their certificate, and people know that they are from Askar. This is especially good when it comes to their CVs. 
Here in Askar, each guard has a set career path or progression. We help them all the way.  
You have been in the security business for a long time. Where would you like to see Askar 10 years from now?
Our economy is going very well. We have ventured to set our sights beyond our borders to know how other countries are working. That way, we know how to deal with those from the external market. 
Askar has come a long way. We are expanding our scope, and adding more services such as K-9 security, VIP protection, and so on. We are growing, here in Uganda, we grew from 600 to 10,000 guards. In Kismayo, we have 120 guards. 
Things look bright for Askar. 
How is Askar working with the government to send a message of trust to investors?
Askar has been a trusted partner of the American government for many years now; ever since the joint venture that we had in Iraq. 
We still continue to work with the US, in places like Somalia. We are actively participating in the security aspect of the WFP with the Americans. Some of Askar’s staff (who have been recruited by other companies) are working with embassies. 
As you can see, that is trust enough. 
What should the American audience understand about Uganda?
Uganda is a nation that should be taken seriously in terms of its capabilities. Its people are highly trainable. We are so determined that we do not let obstacles keep us from doing what we have set out to do. We pick ourselves up and do things better. 
Uganda is a competent and reliable partner.