Interview with Jules Delahaije about security solutions market in East Africa

View the latest interview with Jules Delahaije who gives an overview of the security solutions market in East Africa and speaks about the company itself.

Latest news: Interview with Jules Delahaije, CEO and Chairman at SGA Group

Jules Delahaije, CEO and Chairman at SGA Group

Can you give an overview of SGA Security and the scope of your business?

It is no news that our company is the leading security company in East Africa, operating in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. We employ more than 19,000 people and provide security solutions to our clients. Examples of that are man-guarding, cash-in-transit, alarms and response services. We also offer control room services, close protection, dog handling and K9 services. Basically, the full scope of services. Besides that, we provide technical solutions in terms of hardware and software monitoring. We do more than just put a guard in front of a gate. We do risk assessment and then provide the solution. Usually, it is a combination of a guarding service with technology, electric fences, video monitoring, digital cameras and then follow-up with response. Besides that, we have a range of other services such as facility management. Our cash-in-transit service is more than just armored vehicles, we also operate cash centers, vaulting services, and fill ATMs on behalf of financial institutions. Our client base is quite broad. Most of it is business-to-business focused on multi-nationals, NGOs, embassies, governments, and small to medium sized local companies. We also have residential customers that mostly need alarm and response services.

The latest news is that we are gradually distinguishing ourselves through innovation and new technology. That is really one of the core pillars of our strategy and expansion because man-guarding on its own is becoming more and more expensive. A 24-hour man-guarding service in Europe costs about 100,000-150,000 Euros. In Africa, labor is cheap, but it too is going up and if individuals do not have financial backing from an organization, it becomes unaffordable. That is why you have to find different solutions and we see those solutions in technology. A smartphone has all the basics that you need when it comes to security. It is a remote control, a camera, and a push button. Nowadays there are many software applications to support the human factor to help people to become more accurate and more reliable.

We strongly believe that security, connectivity, and communication go together because if you cannot communicate security is useless. ICT for us is a spear point. We are also looking at cybersecurity because the big crimes, the big challenges nowadays are not so much a physical aspect. In the past, bank notes stacked up in a one square meter area in a room could be protected by guards with machine guns, but now a server placed in the same area will depend on the systems that run on the server, and those guards with machine guns are not going to be of any help. Security is going in a completely different direction, but most people do not realize how much we lose annually per country, per company, through cyberattacks.

Our services now are often a combination of security and safety solutions. When you enter a building in East Africa, a guard at the front gate will take your temperature and monitor whether you have specific symptoms or not. And again, applying technology, a digital camera which is a thermal camera can even do that for you.

What makes your company different and what is your competitive advantage?

We want to be the best at providing high-end quality security in combination with technology and innovation. In terms of revenue, in this region we currently do about 65 million and we want to grow past 100 million.

We are quite focused on certain sectors, and we provide high-end, quality services. We recently obtained the ISO 18788 certification, which is really the highest standard of security. It is required by mining, oil and gas businesses, because they need the highest standard, but it also refers to the UN’s human rights guidelines and supports the adoption of CSR and codes of conduct. International transparency and international rules, that’s what we stand for. Some of our colleagues claim they have the same standards, but usually they have it in London, or Canada, or in France, not locally. These standards refer specifically to private security in places that are not 100% compliant or stable areas. And let’s face it, this region faces certain threats. Security is not only about petty thefts; it is much more than that and requires quite a different approach. We try to maintain a high level of standards so that we can provide services that are required whether it is in Europe, the US, Asia, or East Africa. It is not easy, but we consider partnerships with our clients rather than a buy and sell transaction.

Training people is something else that we do. A lot of in-house training and where needed, we partner with external parties when it is very specific. For instance, on terrorist threats or severe crime risks. Man-guarding a bank is different than a kindergarten. It requires different skills.

Can you tell us news about your expansion plans?

We offer tracking and tracing services, not only on people but also on goods, and quite often that goes beyond our region. That is one area. The other area is cash-in-transit and air freight, which is money transferred by air transport. We want to grow in those sectors, and we have identified countries where we can do so. DRC is one, Ethiopia is another, although we have to put that on hold temporarily due to recent developments. Also, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Our strategy is to use our existing customer base as an entry platform to those countries. At the same time because of our sector focus, we are often asked by neighboring countries if we can provide our services to them. For example, we have 800 guards at the largest gold mine in East Africa and because of that, some neighbors have asked us to provide that service to mines in their country.

We are looking for partners on one hand and funding on the other to support our expansion and to accelerate it. We have a few focus areas like financial institutions, mining, oil and gas. ICT is an important part where we believe there will be serious growth like with data centers which require more than average security. Also environment, healthcare, fire safety and training. It is a broad scope where we feel we could add a lot of value. We think we can leverage and use our experience to expand in the region.

What are some of your success stories?

It is difficult to reveal them because of security, but the main success stories are where we can prevent serious issues. Where we take a proactive approach, and the client is benefiting. Situations where our guards have been very alert and prevented serious things from happening. In one of the countries, we work closely with police, and we have our own licensed armed forces, but it means we have to be very strict and very well trained.

What is your vision for the company? What do you want to achieve in the next three years?

We want to be the best at providing high-end quality security in combination with technology and innovation. In terms of revenue, in this region we currently do about 65 million and we want to grow past 100 million. Growth is needed for sustainability. Security is growing very fast globally, not only the services but also software, equipment and the whole spectrum. We also have to realize that the region in which we are operating has its challenges. Every time there is an election, there is a challenge. Terrorist attacks are an issue. Think about what happened recently in Uganda. These are things that will not go away. We know it is a global problem, but when it comes close you have to deal with it. We want to be the provider of choice in that sense.

There are only a few others who can provide a service similar to ours. In Kenya, there are more than 5,000 companies that call themselves security companies. There are 500,000 people employed in the private security business. That is huge. The good thing is government has adopted new regulations, so businesses have to be licensed. The mission is to bring the whole sector together to operate under the same guidelines.


Scroll to top