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15 Jun 2021

Paul Nantulya, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (USA)

Belt and Road in Africa: Presence of Chinese security firms grows as civil society pushes for greater transparency and oversight

"Chinese Security Firms Spread along the African Belt and Road", 6 July 2021

[...] The Chinese government is, consequently, increasingly relying on Chinese security firms as part of its security mix. [...] The actual number of Chinese contractors in Africa is doubtlessly significantly higher. Beijing DeWe Security Service and Huaxin Zhong An Security Group employ 35,000 contractors in 50 African countries, South Asia, the Middle East, and China. Overseas Security Guardians and China Security Technology Group employ 62,000 in the same regions. In Kenya, DeWe employs around 2,000 security contractors to protect the $3.6-billion Mombasa-Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway alone.

[...] Chinese security contracting comes with many of the same risks associated with some Chinese SOEs, including a lack of transparency, weak national controls, undue influence on regime elites, and social tensions. [...]

The push for greater transparency and oversight of Chinese and foreign security firms in Africa has largely come from civil society actors. African civil society groups have focused a large part of their advocacy on extractive industries where Chinese SOE investments and security contracting are particularly visible. Strategic litigation has quickly emerged as a potent tool to create greater awareness and transparency around the opaque nature of security contracts. [...]