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West African afternoon

Piracy off shore, illegal oil bunkering, narcotics, kidnap and ransom, gunfire against diplomats and high net worth business travellers – all these were mentioned in an afternoon-long online gathering, Executive Security West Africa Forum, by Phelim Rowe of CTG Intelligence. Yet while those things do happen in the region, the event heard that (western) perceptions can deceive. Just like another other place, the region and the continent isn’t one – even two cities or parts of cities have different risks.

To do business there, whether as a security manager or a multi-national business, as panel members made plain, you need to understand the culture – ‘it’s not better or worse, it’s just different’ – and you need to do your homework. And you certainly need local support on the ground.

One of those local providers who spoke was former British Army man Steve Phelps, now Lagos-based of DC Premium Logistic. As the event heard, covid-19 has had an impact on the region economically, causing its own issues. Steve Phelps pointed out that a lot of people have learned from covid that they can do business in different ways – that is, without physically visiting – as indeed Phelim’s entirely online gathering showed.

Steve said of the remote working: “That’s changed the game a little bit; people who would come here for fairly routine business are now looking at if there are other ways they can do it; that’s driven by the business imperative not a security imperative. I think there will be less business travel, not zero, but a reduced level, as people have got used to do business in different ways, that are cheaper and less risky.”

Does that mean less scope for security providers in the Ecowas region – which as the event heard, has 17 countries and about 400 million people? Not necessarily, for Steve added that Security can focus on client awareness of their online exposure – namely that clients may expose themselves in their lives or business more than they might when face to face.

Earlier Krisztian Zerkowitz of contractor Auriex – working in Libya – spoke about tactical medicine; as not the same as first aid, but how someone in an executive protection team should provide ‘damage control’ if a principal is injured during ‘total chaos’ such as gunfire or an IED.

Another British voice was – from Mexico City – Lee Oughton. The event began by covering corporate security and the ‘CSO of tomorrow’. More in the December 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

“We’re trying to get the region de-mystified,” Phelim said afterwards.

Phelim and CTG run various international forums. Phelim added that he plans his annual executive protection event on January 28, which may be online, physical (in the UK) or hybrid. Visit http://www.ctgintelligence.com/new-events.


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