A few weeks ago, there was an outpour of support on social media for young Guled Adan Abdi, a 13-year old Somalian inventor from the northern town of Buuhoodle, Somalia.
The self-taught inventor makes plastic motorised toys from trash, something he learnt to do by studying real cars. So far, Abdi has a few electronic toys – trucks, fans, planes – to his name, all made out of plastic from old cooking oil containers.
The last of three children with no father figure, Abdi lives with his struggling mother and older siblings. When things get tough for the family, they move to live with relatives in remote areas where there are no schools and Abdi ends up missing out on school sessions.
During the ‘good times’ when Abdi can afford to be in school, like he has in the last 12 months, he spends hours after school working on his inventions, which he moves around by connecting to a battery-powered control box.
However, in the midst of Abdi’s new found fame and recognition, is his school teacher, Asha Ahmed Omar, who encouraged him to keep inventing and experimenting, daily. She even bought him his first batteries to motorise his toys.
Thanks to Mrs. Omar, Abdi’s reputation spread both within and outside Buuhoodle. Recently, the teenager received the grand invitation to Garowe to the meet with the president of the Puntland regional state, President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. Amazed by the inventions of the 13-year old, President Ali promised Abdi a scholarship by the Puntland government.
Abdi’s reputation and good fortune has also won his mother over. Mary Hassan was no fan of her son’s plastic inventions and would sometimes discard some of his models that littered their home, but not anymore.
“I would like to gradually learn how to become a producer of cars,” Abdi told the BBC Somalia.
Abdi’s story is interesting, but more than that, it quite refreshing to see something positive in the news about Somalia, a country plagued by war, famine, and terrorism.