Private Security in Africa

From the Global Assemblage to the Everyday

Edited by Paul Higate and Mats Utas


A comprehensive analysis of the rise of private security providers across Africa, and its implications for African states and societies

Across Africa, growing economic inequality, instability and urbanization have led to the rapid spread of private security providers. While these PSPs have already had a significant impact on African societies, their impact has so far received little in the way of comprehensive analysis.

Drawing on a wide range of disciplinary approaches, and encompassing anthropology, sociology and political science, Private Security in Africa offers unique insight into the lives and experiences of security providers and those affected by them, as well as into the fragile state context which has allowed them to thrive. Featuring original empirical research and case studies ranging from private policing in South Africa to the recruitment of Sierra Leoneans for private security work in Iraq, the book considers the full implications of PSPs for security and the state, not only for Africa but for the world as a whole.

Author Bio

Paul Higate is a reader in gender and security at the University of Bristol.

Mats Utas is a senior lecturer in the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology at Uppsala University. He is the editor of African Conflicts and Informal Power (Zed 2012).

Table of Contents

  • Introduction - Paul Higate
  • 1. Golden Assemblages: Security and Development in Tanzania’s Gold Mines - Rita Abrahamsen and Michael Williams
  • 2. Failed, Fake or Weak State: The Role of Private Security in Somalia - William Reno
  • 3. Private Security Beyond the Private Sector: Community Policing and Secret Societies in Sierra Leone - Peter Albrecht
  • 4. The Underbelly of Global Security: Sierra Leoneans in Iraq - Maya Mynster Christensen
  • 5. Who do you Call? Private Security Policing in Durban, South Africa - Tessa Diphoorn
  • 6. Security Sector Reform as Trojan Horse? New Security Assemblages of Privatised Military Training in Liberia - Marcus Mohlin
  • 7. Political Becoming and Non-State Emergence in Kenya’s Security Sector: Mungiki as Security Operator - Jacob Rasmussen
  • 8. Parapluies Politiques: The Everyday Politics of Private Security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - Peer Schouten
  • Epilogue: African Assemblages of private security - Mats Utas


‘An important addition to understanding the complex nexus between private and state security provision in fragile states. This is a useful and welcome book that adds new interpretations and insight into the increasingly important roles performed by multiple security actors.’
Kwesi Aning, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Ghana

‘Offers a view of private security in Africa “from below”. Its chapters provide compelling accounts for readers interested in the everyday assemblages of African security.’
Anna Leander, editor of The Commercialization of Security in Europe

‘An essential contribution to the scholarship on security assemblages and private security in Africa. It should be compulsory reading for any academic and policy expert concerned with the state of African security today.’
Christopher Kinsey, author of Corporate Soldiers and International Security

‘Ranging from secret societies in Sierra Leone to private security companies in South Africa, this important book provides a major contribution to the theory and practical understanding of the everyday experience of private security across Africa.’
Paul Jackson, University of Birmingham

‘Bringing together some of the best scholars on private security in sub-Saharan Africa, this collection offers a detailed reminder that the local and global are invariably intertwined and that commercial efforts to achieve security may blend in surprising ways companies, development and human rights NGOs, local communities and state actors.’
Bruce Baker, Coventry University

‘Higate and Utas have produced a cohesive collection of insightful essays on the politics of private security in Africa (and beyond). Theoretically sophisticated and empirically informed, this impressive volume will be the baseline for future scholarship for years to come.’
Kevin Dunn, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

‘The global trend of privatising security has received little systematic attention. This highly recommended book starts to close this gap and raises important questions about what this means for the role of the state in this age of uncertainty.’
Morten Bøås, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

‘Through the adoption of an ethnographic lens, this volume provides a compelling account of everyday private security practices and the kaleidoscopic configurations within which they blend and assemble.’
Daniel C.Bach, Sciences Po Bordeaux (Emeritus)

'The contributions in the book undoubtedly add a high level of high quality empirical evidence to understanding Africa's security.'
Oslo Review of Docs and Books

'A key strength of the book is its use of empirical findings for a new theorization of how we are to understand private security in the African continent … I would recommend this book to students, academics interested in security studies, including policy analysts in both public and private spaces.'
Africa at LSE

'The authors provide a snapshot into complex and compelling scenarios of security governance in spaces where plurality is the norm … an interesting and compelling read.'
African Studies Review


Publication Date: 15 June 2017
192 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786990259
Hardback: 9781786990266
eBook ePub: 9781786990273
eBook PDF: 9781786990280
eBook Kindle: 9781786990297

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