The global private security industry is by no means new, but its growth since the 1990s has been phenomenal, stimulated by economic liberalisation and the downsizing of government security services in the aftermath of the Cold War. By 2012, the sector was worth an estimated US$190 billion in global annual revenues, a figure expected to climb to US$240 billion by the end of 2017.1 While much attention has focused on the Middle East and the rise of controversial mega-companies such as Blackwater, considerable growth has occurred in emerging markets. Africa is clearly no exception. British company G4S, for example, employs over 110,000 people across 29 African countries, making it the largest private sector employer on the continent.2 But with its history of mercenarism and its continuing post-colonial preoccupation with liberation ideology, policy debate and academic study in Africa has centred on the ethics of private security and the need to create appropriate regulatory structures.3 Necessary though the ethical debate is, it has predominated at the expense of other matters of importance. Relatively little is known about the industry from an economic perspective — about its economic impact in statistical terms or about the entrepreneurs that are spreading across the continent, both from bases in Africa and abroad.
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