In an exclusive interview with EP Wired, Daniel Weil, CEO of SCS Solution and the Chairperson of ASIS Int. – Israel Chapter, shares some of his company’s experiences in providing EP services in Africa. Does practice differ there when compared to Europe or North America? What are some of the key-characteristics of the market? In what ways do COVID-19 and terrorism impact daily operations in Africa?
Read on and be entertained and informed on this important topic.
SCS has a strong presence providing EP services in Africa. What are some of the characteristics of the African market that make it unique when compared to operating in Europe or North America?
Providing EP services in Africa is very different than in Europe or any other modern place. Africa is a continent of tribes with different cultures, beliefs, and mentalities. Although there is a similarity, you can’t really generalize and refer to it as one place. Each country, or even each area is different and needs to be treated differently. In order to provide a high standard of EP services in Africa, you need to understand the local mentality in each location with the Do’s and Don’ts and to understand the bigger picture – e.g. political or tribal disputes.
One of the many mental challenges in certain places in Africa is the expectation of getting paid in order to solve problems. Unfortunately, that goes for the simple farmer and the police officer at the checkpoint – and rises in scale for every level. As an operator, it can put you in a tight spot. On one hand, you can’t comply with such behavior, but on the other hand, that is the norm and that’s what the person in front and behind you will do.
Roadside assaults are a common threat in parts of the continent, especially in South Africa. Given the unpredictability of these assaults, to what extent are preventative measures possible? Or are you always ready to react?
The real art of executive protection is not to react but prevent. Of course, every executive protection team needs to be able to react if something happens, but the goal is to assess the risks correctly and do the right preplanning in order to avoid conflicts.
One of the basic techniques is sending an advance vehicle to open the road for the principal’s vehicle. In an evacuation task we had in Ethiopia during the COVID-19 pandemic, the advance vehicle noticed a group of suspicious youngsters on motorbikes. The CPO reported immediately back and the team used an alternative road. Eventually, it turned out that this group robbed and caused damage to passing vehicles.
I would definitely place Nigeria at the top of the list – Nigeria is a dangerous place. It also has its complications. Although the crime rates are skyrocketing, the government doesn’t allow private security companies to be armed. To overcome this obstacle, we use a Mopols (Mobile armed police) escort whenever needed. Although we normally prefer a low-key approach, the yelling sirens of the Mopols vehicle is the best solution and will make robbers look for an easier target.
SCS practices an Israeli methodology in crisis resolution. Has this methodology been proven effective during operations in Africa and how so?
Our main activity is creating a prevention circle around the principle. Part of that is to disrupt the potential attacker’s intel gathering and disable them from planning a more sophisticated attack. Things like constantly changing vehicles, roads, departure times, etc., are very basic but will force the attacker to invest much more resources in order execute the attack. The prevention measures you take depend on the risk level of the client, of course.
A client of ours was under an investigation in South Africa, which attracted a lot of negative attention. By constantly changing the routine and vehicles, we managed to move freely despite the protesters.
Prevention is tiresome daily work, but it pays off eventually.
Terrorism and violent extremism are arguably Africa’s greatest security threats in 2021 – with groups operating in East, West, and Southern Africa. Does this require EPAs to have a special background or certain skills?
Anyone who provides EP services in Africa should take this risk into account. Unfortunately, terrorism stopped being just an MEA problem, but rather became a global one. We see it in Europe, the USA, and even Australia. An EP agent should be trained to deal with these scenarios. Or at least to identify the best course of action with the tools at their disposal.
Saying that, in more complicated locations, we will use a more senior experienced EPA.
COVID-19 exposed a lot of weaknesses and showed that companies need to do better. To what extent did it change the provision of EP services in Africa, and do you think this change will be permanent?
There is a good reason Executive Protection is also called CLOSE Protection. It’s intimate work. Whether it’s in a vehicle, office – or even the hotel room, you can be with the principal for most of the day.
One of the safety measures of dealing with the Pandemic is social distancing. If the EP agent is not a part of the principal capsule and is only with them on a specific task, there can be certain difficulties. For example, you need more vehicles in order to reduce the number of passengers traveling together. Some clients prefer the EP agent to be in a separate vehicle.
From a security perspective, the security team needs to keep the principal safe, not only from hostile parties, but also from the general public, and isolate them as much as possible.
In terms of tech and equipment, what are some of the must-haves? What are the top three items EPAs should never be without in Africa?
It depends on which area, or whether you travel inside the city or in rural areas. Many executives belong to high-risk groups, not because of their wealth, but rather due to their physical or medical conditions. Therefore, we always take an advanced medic bag with trauma kits, as well as a defibrillator.
Basic things like Advil, bandages, and disinfecting materials are also important and are in use on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to have Aspirin along, as it can help someone if they are having a heart attack. A tire sealer spray is a must – even if you have a spare tire, a GPS and, nowadays, you should always have plenty of facemasks, hand sanitizers, and gloves.