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S1E12 – In the twelfth episode we talk to Stella Kagwi, Group HR Coordinator for WS Insight, an ICoCA Member Company with operations across Africa, about why and how human resource management plays such a critical role in the provision of responsible security.


This podcast was originally published June 23, 2021

Hello, I’m Chris Galvin. Welcome to today’s podcast, the 12th in ICoCA’s Series Future Security Trends Implications for Human Rights. Today’s episode is called Human Rights and Human Resources The role of Training and Vetting in the Provision of Responsible Security. To unpack how and why human resource management plays such a critical role in the provision of responsible security, I’ll be in conversation with Stella Kagwe, Group HR Coordinator for WS Insight, an ICoCA member company with operations across Africa. So, Stella, welcome. And first of all, I’d like you to tell us a bit about your insights and how you ended up working for the company.
All right. Thanks a lot, Chris, for inviting me to be your guest on your podcast. I’m quite excited to be here. So, I’ll tell you a bit about WS Insight. So, WS Insight is a security and risk management company operating in eastern Central Africa and established in 2006 under the name Warrior Security. So, we basically provide integrated solutions to our clients. Our services include manned guarding, technological security solutions, as well as information and intelligence. So, as you already know, we are operating in a very dynamic and complex region within the continent. So, we take a risk-driven approach to addressing our clients’ needs by using intelligence and information. We’re able to get a granular understanding of their needs and to be able to deliver appropriate and relevant solutions to those specific needs.

The foundation of this approach is what we call the three I that is, insight, information, and intelligence. So, we have a team of analysts that use privileged insights to come up with this usable intelligence. We also have a consulting branch, called Insight Consulting Africa, we provide advisory and consulting services to our clients and develop strategies that help our clients maximize the opportunities and de-risk their businesses in this region. Our clients include international and non-governmental organizations, diplomatic missions, and major multinationals, as well as local, commercial, and residential customers within each of our markets. At Insight, we believe that creating a safe environment enables people and businesses to thrive. So, basically, our aim is to change the way security is done in Africa.

So, a bit about myself, prior to joining Insight, I was a HR Manager for an international risk management company based in Kenya. It was a bit different though as it provided land, air, and maritime security. So, a new position was created at Insight and that was offered the position, I took it, and it’s been about five and a half years now and it’s been an incredible learning experience for sure.


Fantastic. Thank you for that overview. And so, you’ve talked quite a bit about risk management, but WS Insight they also offer for man guarding services, is that correct?

Yes, that is correct. We do offer man-guarding services. Actually, our entity in South Sudan is our largest entity in regard to man-guarding services in the region.


So, I’d like to kind of hone in on that aspect of the business, if that’s okay. And first, really, I’d like to ask what’s the typical profile of a WS Insight security guard? And, how do you recruit your staff and your guards? And, how do you make sure that those people that you recruit are the right fit for the job?

So, in the markets in which we operate, there’s typically a large pool of good candidates for the role. Once you put a job advert out, we receive a good number of interested and qualified applicants. They obviously come from different backgrounds, different ages, different tribes, and different education levels as well. So, we have our standard selection criteria, which is quite straightforward to test against and we have a comprehensive training program that we take them through and we ensure that every security officer we deploy is fit for the job.

Actually, the real challenge is maintaining these standards in the longer term. We have three areas that we use to ensure that we maintain these standards. So, the first is obviously on-the-job training and continuation training, and refresher trainings. This requires a disciplined approach to mentorship and continuation of the training. The second is we keep up with the market expectations and as well as adapting to new requirements in the market, a good example is actually the prevention of sexual exploitation requirements. So, by incorporating that we know that we are able to ensure that we are retaining the standards that is required. And then last but not least, is workforce vibrancy. We basically want to make sure we take care of an employee all the way through from recruitment to the whole employment life cycle. So, we have put in place a positive company culture, we have award and recognition programs, we also ensure that we pay above market rates and the small things we do to just ensure that we are maintaining the right workforce vibrancy.


And so, going back to this question of the typical profile, again, if you let’s take education level, for example, because there is some thought out there that a security guard, that job is a menial task, it doesn’t require education. Is that true, of guards coming in with very low levels of education? If that’s the case, what challenges does that present?

So, when it comes to the education level, we already have a set standard of the type of education that the minimum qualification that an applicant should have. So, some of the challenges we actually have in regard to that is say the English language proficiency, which is one of the things that we have to test against. With the basic guard training, we bring together people from all these different educational backgrounds and then we’re able to train them and standardize them so that at the end of the day the type of guard output is similar irrespective of what they came in with. Does that make sense?

You mentioned preventing sexual exploitation and abuse there, which of course is one of the human rights kinds of issues that we look at ICoCA. So, when it comes to issues like human rights, how easy or not is it to train staff on such topics?

Specifically, when it comes to human rights, we are working with groups which have a poor understanding of human rights and who have quite often a high tolerance for human rights abuses. So that’s one of the challenges that we have. So a key part in overcoming this is to ensure that the trainers that we use come from the right communities, they are well equipped with the skills, the knowledge, and understanding of human rights and the training needs as well. I think I’ll give you an example, say for the northern parts of South Sudan, you’ll find that it’s cultural for a man to marry a teenager, an 18-year-old or 16-year-old. So, it’s common that they don’t see it as a problem, they don’t see it as a human a human rights issue. So, one of the ways in which we deal with this is having a local be a trainer. So, they go there, they have an understanding of the culture and the expectations, and then they’re able to actually change that mindset. I know it’s a very slow process, it’s not something that is going to go away anytime soon. It’s a continuous process and we address this through mentoring and obviously continuation training.


And so then how do you select your trainers? Because it sounds like that’s a really critical role.

When it comes to selecting the trainers, um, to go in the specific communities as we are recruiting the trainers, we, we are very specific on the, the community that we are looking to send them to. So that’s one of the key requirements when looking for trainers.


Interesting. Now, you recently provided input on a new course that ICoCA has developed for its member and affiliate companies. This is on preventing sexual exploitation abuse. You’ve already mentioned this as a topic, but why is this an important topic for the private security sector and what are the challenges, particularly as it relates to this in training employees on a topic like sexual exploitation and abuse?

Let me first start by thanking ICoCA for inviting Insight to collaborate on the development of this training. So, I also want to express our appreciation to Iacocca for taking a strong position on PSA for its members. This is obviously a very, extremely important topic for private security for several reasons. So first and foremost, it’s a matter of the values that we have to live by as private security companies. That is if you’re going to succeed in business. Private security companies provide essential services to their clients and must maintain high standards of behavior so they’re seen as protective personnel.

At Insight, I mentioned earlier that we believe that creating a safe environment enables people and businesses to thrive. So, what we want to live by is to go beyond the basic task of just providing protective services. So, we want to also stand against all types of exploitation and abuse within individuals and within the communities in which we work. Therefore, we must equip our people with the knowledge and understanding of these topics to prevent these issues and to provide safe, confidential, and supportive channels through which they can raise the alarm and bring forward these concerns and grievances. Secondly, as businesses, we have to understand the contracts that we adhere to. So, there’s this clear momentum within the client body for compliance within the supply chain to address sexual exploitation and abuse and other human rights issues as well. So, the demand for private security companies are moving away from avoiding sexual exploitation and abuse to demonstrating adequate and reasonable measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. So, basically at Insight, we just want to stay ahead of that curve.


And so, are you seeing demand from clients themselves on these issues, human rights issues, whether that’s preventing sexual exploitation and abuse or use of force or whatever human rights issue it might be? Are you seeing clients step up and say, we require your guards to be trained on these topics?

This is actually one of the challenges I wanted to mention. We are seeing some of this happening, but it’s also not enough. We’re not seeing industry in the regulation from companies to enforce this, especially through their supply chain.


So, what do you think are the biggest challenges faced by private security companies ensuring high-quality guarding services for their clients that respect human rights?

I’ll be honest, at Insight, I’d like to actually say we are confident that we provide high-quality services to our clients that fully respect human rights. This is not the challenge for us because as mentioned, I talked about the training, the various training, and other measures we have in place to ensure this. However, the challenge is in the regulation of the private security industry and integration of standards into the client procurement and supply onboarding process.

So, all too often, tender documents don’t require standards or membership of regulatory bodies such as ICoCA, and these little due diligence to determine whether private security companies have invested in the infrastructure and processes necessary to deliver the high standards and to mitigate the risks in areas such as human rights and PSEA. So, this again, is combined with companies looking for the lowest price awards, basically doing themselves a disservice. But we are seeing some signs of change, we have seen some companies that have been ignoring human rights issues being prosecuted. So, I think we are seeing that now there’s a requirement for corporate human rights responsibility coming up, which I think is a step in the right direction. So, when we see companies being penalized or having reputational damage for this negligence, I think we are heading in the right direction. We appreciate ICoCA for bringing these standards to the forefront of the private security industries and engaging with the private security companies. So it’s a long way coming, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.


And, with that in mind, what more do you think ICoCA and the members of the Association and others can and should be doing to really put pressure on clients to require these standards in their procurement?

Try and help is having a requirement, for companies to have some sort of human rights due diligence, especially in its supply chain and, and business relationships. So especially this is especially for businesses operating in, in difficult and complex environments such as us. So, it’s true by extending oversight through the supply chain, you could potentially be affecting the lives of hundreds and thousands of people living in these communities and in these regions. So that’s one of the things I think ICoCA can do to bring this to the forefront.


Well, we look forward to working with you and our other members in the ambition to do just that. But today thanks so much for your time.




The views and opinions presented in this article belong solely to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the stance of the International Code of Conduct Association (ICoCA).