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When you take a tour of Africa, you will most likely meet improvised cars and truck toys made by young boys. It just starts this early in Africa! By the age of 11 boys will have made a stunning masterpiece to showcase and run around with as part of play. What if these talents were identified and nurtured well? What would evolve out of it? Certainly, Africa would be a profound engineering hub, a leading producer of classic automobiles. But save that for another day. This rarely happens, not even their own parents notice the great works these kids do. But you will be wrong to imagine that these talents die here! If you did, just take this and contemplate.
Waging wars? Look no further.
As these talents remain untapped, they seek avenues to manifest themselves later in life. Did you ever imagine that a heavily armed conventional army can lose to poorly armed and non-conventional one? It happened- not once- thanks to improvisation skills earlier seen as in the African kids! If it sounds fictitious, let me supply some facts.
- The Chadian army used ‘technicals’ to repulse the Libyan army from the Aozou strip in 1987. Technicals are improvised trucks/ fighting vehicles that are modified to serve as military gun trucks. Many are four- wheel- drive vehicles with mounted machine guns or light aircraft recoilless rifles.
- The technicals have consistently won wars in Somalia, from the early 1990 war to the 2006-2009 battles. Mohamed Farah Aidid used a couple of them and a force of much less than 1000 men to capture the town of Baidoa in 1995.
Now, that puts everything into perspective. Compare this; the ‘marauder’, a multi-role and highly agile mine protected vehicle and a proven work horse to support infantry in combat, against these improvised trucks in the field of combat. This demonstrates the power of design/ improvisation as exhibited by the young African boys at tender ages of 11. These improvised trucks do not just face armies with only the ‘marauders’. They face fully fledged armies with reconnaissance surveillance aircrafts, and tanks- and they manage to win!
What makes them great for combat is their light weight-they can ride through anti-tank minefields without detonating them when travelling at 100km/hr. and above.
Vehicle improvisations have not only taken place in the field of combat. Recently in Kenya, motorcycles have been improvised to trucks and enabled carrying of even heavier tasks. Some of these trucks have been used to ferry goods and passengers in densely populated areas as they are better in heavy traffic, and consume less fuel. Africa is indeed cradle of vehicle improvisation.