Paramount helps transform Africa’s Police and Prisons Services


Those of us living in South Africa tend to hear only complaints about our police and prisons departments, but much of the work being done in these areas is enormously successful – so much so that other countries have despatched fact-finding missions to South Africa, taking lessons back to their own countries to be implemented there. The SAPS has helped with training and equipment in a number of African countries which have requested assistance in moving towards a framework of modern policing.

As an example, four years ago Paramount Group facilitated a mission from Ghana to South Africa to observe the ways in which our police and correctional services function, with a view to updating and modernising their own departments along similar lines. Their main obstacle to uplifting both police and prisons services was, however, a lack of equipment.

Paramount Group has played a vital role in the transformation of police and prison departments in demilitarised countries throughout Africa, by supplying vehicles and equipment essential for the smooth running and continued improvement of these services. The latest agreement is that recently entered into with Ghana’s Ministry of Interior.

Ghana’s Police Service, like that of many countries in Africa, has long been hampered by a lack of mobility. As in other parts of the continent, an increase in cross-border incursions has seen a subsequent increase in crime, heightening the need for police to be able to cover more territory and respond more immediately to problems.

Paramount has supplied the equipment necessary for this, including vehicles based on Mahindra drive-lines – specifically tailored to improve the efficacy of police in operations ranging from regional surveys to highway patrol. Standard protective equipment as well as technical support and spare parts form part of the complete logistical package.

Paramount’s equipment, training and support package means that Ghana’s police force has been able to acquire the vehicles and logistical equipment it needs, and put them to immediate use.

Another unusual facet of this deal is transfer of know-how and capacity.

Unlike many other suppliers of security equipment, Paramount Group ensures that it provides effective service back-up for equipment that it supplies. Instead of simply selling Mahindras, it has introduced the brand into Ghana so that vehicles can be more cost-effectively supported locally. In terms of Paramount Group’s strategic partnership with Mahindra, the Parties have worked to establish a service dealership and has provided a substantial customised fleet of these vehicles to the police, with custom-designed features necessary for optimal functioning in the areas to which they will be put to use.

“The aim is to give police a greater presence across the country; to aid them in combating crime and to improve their logistical efficiency” says Ivor Ichikowitz, the Executive Chairman of Paramount Group. “It is my firm belief that the development of the African continent will be based on the ability of governments to provide a safe environment for their citizens and for investors, and one of our prime objectives over many years has been to support the modernisation of police services throughout Africa. In order to do this it is critical for police forces to be able to utilise technology as a force multiplier”.

Ichikowitz continued, “In large countries such as Ghana, mobility is critical to the efficiency of the Police Service. Both the Government of Ghana and ourselves are very pleased with the enhanced operational efficiency that the Paramount Group package supplied has been able to provide”.

The need for police mobility is critical in certain areas, and the Ghana Police Services is now able to cover far more ground far more cost effectively by having had this contract implemented. had become critical in certain areas, and they are now able to cover far more ground by having these value-for-money vehicles.”

While the main focus of this programme is mobility, Africa’s police services have needed transforming in other areas too. Ghana is certainly not the first country on the continent faced with the task of turning a previously highly militarised police force into a civilian organ focused on serving the ends of law and order and protecting and serving the needs of the public rather than those of the army.

“The police had a similar image problem in South Africa after apartheid ended,” says Paramount CEO John Craig. “They had to change the way they were seen in order for the public to perceive the difference between the army and the police. The role of the military is to protect the country’s borders and sovereignty, whilst the police are there to uphold internal law and order in a way that employs minimum force. In South Africa, police could no longer drive the Casspirs that they had used during struggle years. They needed a new public image. The same is true in other countries across Africa.”

Paramount has helped Ghana, and other countries to bring about this doctrinal shift through intense and specialised training. “In the wake of demilitarisation, the need to change the appearance and functioning of the police is crucial, therefore we have supplied re-training aimed at differentiating the police as a civilian force, as well as supplying the new equipment necessary to support this new ethos,” says John Craig.

“Providing the appropriate vehicles is an acknowledgement that this function needs to be properly and specifically resourced, as well as changing the public perception of police.”

Whilst the police are highly visible, Africa’s prisons services have often been left behind. In many African countries trying to rehabilitate their economies, prisons have not been seen as the most important priority, nor have the necessary funds been available for their refurbishment, therefore many have not been upgraded for years. In Ghana and several other countries, attention is now being paid to the role of prisons within society, and what they need in order to function at full potential.

Recognising the need to improve the resources and functioning of their prisons, Ghana also looked at South Africa’s relatively new model of turning prisons into “correctional services” – where the emphasis is on rehabilitation of offenders by equipping them with skills, in other words providing workshops, training and educational facilities for prisoners.

At the same time as increasing the efficiency of their police force, Paramount has signed an agreement with Ghana to help to transform their prisons services. This contract contains several elements. One is mobility – prisons had not previously had the budget to operate their own dedicated vehicles for the transportation of prisoners, whereas now every prison is equipped with the appropriate vehicles. The biggest part of the deal however, is to set up, equip and train the prisons services to be able to run vocational workshops for the teaching of skills to inmates.

“This project is a perfect example of Paramount’s commitment to positively contribute to the growth and development of the countries in which it operates” says Ichikowitz, “Paramount is very pleased to be participating with the Government of Ghana in this innovative initiative, as we believe that this will provide a blue print for other prisons services across the continent. The cost of sustaining inmates is becoming prohibitive, and projects of this nature allow some of these costs to be applied to the creation of skills so that inmates are able to return to society with the ability to make a constructive contribution”.

Paramount is providing all the initial materials and full equipment, plus ongoing support for prison workshops that will teach carpentry, shoemaking, tailoring, auto-mechanic skills, electronics, pottery, vulcanising, welding and metalworking. These facilities will be officially opened in the near future. “This capability will enable prisoners to reintegrate into society once released,” says Paramount’s Executive Ms Sally Gallagher “They will have the skills and a means of creating their own revenue, which is the only real way to successfully combat crime. The same programme has been implemented by Paramount in several other African countries and the solution has proved more than satisfactory – hence the demand spreading across the continent.