Somalia makes international headline every quite so often that it’s easy to overlook its news in a list of news feeds. That is because, most of the news that makes headlines from this country at the Horn of Africa has to do with terrorism-related murders and the Islamist extremists group Al-Shabaab.
However, BBC Somali Service picked up a, rather refreshing news from Somalia, about a 13-year old Guled Adan Abdi. Young Abdi is not your typical 13-year-old boy whom you’d expect to find running around playing with toys his parents has bought him. Instead, young Abdi makes his own toys out of old plastic containers and has even fitted them with motors to make them move.
One might argue this is a classic case of necessity becoming the mother of invention. Abdi’s father went missing in 2002 and is presumed dead. He has only his mother to fend for him, but his mother makes a living from selling anjeera (Somali pancakes). The money she brings home is not enough to sustain the family let alone buying little Abdi toys.
Abdi, who hails from Buhodle, a town in northern parts of Somalia, told the BBC Somali Service, “I started making toys when I was younger. I used to play with them without any motor. But later I said to myself, ‘Why don’t you make them into a moving machine?’
So I looked at the cars in the town and invented my toys with the same design.”
Given that Abdi’s mother is the sole breadwinner of the family, and the income she brings home from selling anjeera is hardly enough to sustain the family. They are sometimes forced to stay with their relatives in rural areas. When they do so, Abdi cannot attend school, given they have to move to rural areas where their relatives live.
“From noon to late in the evening I usually work on my cars. I have never seen anyone make such things, and I was not trained by anyone. I investigated and found out for example how a car’s tires turn.”
Abdi has fitted a battery-powered control box inside his toys that enable him to control the toys movements. The box is marked with a plus and minus sign. Thus far, he has four electronic toys build; including a plane and a truck mostly made of plastic cut from old cooking oil containers.
The only thing Abdi pays to make the toys are the batteries (costing him about $0.25 per pair). You can read more on this on the BBC website.